Adhering to The Gambia National Development Plan (NDP) to promote cultural heritages, the National Centre for Arts and Culture under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has disclosed its intention to develop the long abandoned Mungo Park Memorial Park in Karantaba and its earmarked environment.
The Mungo Park Memorial Park is one of the historical places of attraction in Destination Gambia. The memorial park was built in 1944 by then Governor of The Gambia Sir Hilary Rudolph Robert Blood in honour of the great explorer Mungo Park. Mungo Park was sent to discover the origin of River Niger by Royal African Society but was unfortunately killed in Nigeria in January 1806.
Narrating the story of Mungo Park and his connections with Destination Gambia, Hassoum Ceesay, historian and also the director general of National Centre for Arts and Culture said the great Scottish explorer of the river Niger, Mungo Park began his exploration at the mouth of The Gambia river in 1795 where he ascended the river for 200 miles to Pisania "a place now called and known as Karantaba in Destination Gambia to find the source of the River Niger but was killed during his second expedition."
Pisania, now known as Karantaba in Torro, Sami District, Central River Region in the olden days was a British trading station.
Mungo Park expedition was sponsored by Royal African Society and he was instructed to start his exploration journey, to locate the origin of the River Niger, from The Gambia because "then there were lots of British traders trading along the River Gambia and with belief that in The Gambia, he would be able to gather more information. Also to make some collection of what he would need for the journey such as foods, escorts, drinks, carriers and other materials," historian Ceesay explained.
According to him, his mission to locate the origin of the River Niger on his first journey failed because those whom he was supposed to meet at the British trading station had all migrated to Goree in Senegal, so he become helpless and went back to England.
"But in 1805, Mungo Park was reassigned to explore the origin of the River Niger and he led some numbers of Europeans to Pisania and met a medical doctor called Laidley, based in Karantaba (formerly Pisania). He spent two months, and got well prepared for the journey and set out for his exploration journey from the spot to find the source of the River Niger," he explained.
However, in December 1805, Mungo Park was already in the present day Nigeria "but unfortunately there, he was killed in an accident as he and his group was attacked."
"Since Karantaba was the spot he arrived in The Gambia and started his expedition, the then Governor of The Gambia Sir Hilary Rudolph Robert Blood in 1944 built Mungo Park's Memorial Park in same spot in his honour," he added.
"Now, the NCAC wants to develop the area earmarked it with perimeter fence to secure it and have small museum to show pictures, documents and the life history of Mungo Park and Kings of Niani who have given him support he needed during his stay in Pisania."
Among other facilities, he said, a small jetty will be built there because the site is easier to access through the river "all these are parts of the NCAC's efforts to adhere to the NDP in order to promote cultural heritages," DG Ceesay revealed.