It was cold and wet but I had no expectations with this my first visit to Scotland. I had heard that Edinburgh was the most beautiful city in Scotland but also the most English by which I understood it to be on the posh side. It is beautiful. Built with grey and brown stone fixed with lime, the years of rain and wind have left the bricks and cobbled streets with a top layer of smooth blackened and reddish stone. The streets are full of narrow alleyways with steps leading up and down to the next level of streets with iron gate entrances to courtyards and homes. There is a feeling of weight, the weight of stone and iron, a heaviness and tightness of space and the weight of missionaries, planation owners and colonialists. I imagine after a while the city could become claustrophobic.
It only took a few hours before I found my first ‘dead white man’ of the colonies, none other than David Livingstone whose statue stands in the center of the city. The simple inscription ‘Livingstone’ says nothing about his part in Christianizing southern Africa – bible in one hand and the imperial project in the other – “Christianity, Commerce and Civilization“. Livingstone was married to Mary Moffat, daughter of another Scottish missionary Robert Moffat who ‘settled’ in Kuruman in what is now the Northern Cape of South Africa. The stain of their missionary project remains in place –
Kuruman lies at an historical crossroads both in the context of Apartheid and the growing evangelical Christian movement. The town was one of the first missions in Southern Africa [South Africa and what is now Botswana]. In 1816, the Kuruman Mission was established by the London Missionary Society. In 1820, the missionary Robert Moffat arrived in Kuruman and later moved to Seodin, which is now the township where Thapelo was murdered. His daughter Mary was married to another historical figure, the missionary, David Livingstone. Robert Moffat stayed for 50 years during which he translated the bible into the Setswana language. Now the majority of people in the region are Christians. Thus Kuruman, is the sight of entry of the bible which is one of the main instruments driving homophobia. [A Dangerous Visibility]
In the context of the United Kingdom of Great Britain Scotland is often written as the oppressed. The present day Queendom was built on the labour and death of African enslaved and colonized people and this includes the Scottish who traded in Africans, owned plantations and worked as overseers primarily in Barbados, Jamaica and the Leeward Islands.