Selim Aga (c1826-1875) was born in Sudan and was kidnapped by slave traders at about eight years old and became enslaved. He was purchased by a Scottish trader at a Cairo slave market. After being educated at a school near Aberdeen in Scotland, he later joined the voyage of the Dayspring, an early exploratory expedition up the Niger River in Nigeria, which departed from Liverpool on 7 May 1857.
The Dayspring Expedition was intended to advance geographical knowledge and to help set up an outpost of Christianity and “civilization” in the Nigerian interior, where the economic benefits of plantation agriculture could be demonstrated in a bid to undermine the interior slave trade.
Having been kidnapped by slave traders at a young age, Aga would have had good reason to want to join an expedition whose stated aim was to undermine the internal trade in enslaved Africans.
Aga joined the Dayspring as servant to Lieutenant John Hawley Glover, who was chief surveyor on the expedition. When the Dayspring was wrecked on a rock at Jebba on 7 October 1857, Aga and Glover made an overland expedition to Lagos in order to bring supplies to the stranded ship. The items of Nigerian travelling equipment that Selim Aga sold to World Museum in 1860 were probably used on that overland expedition.