We traveled down to Kartong again this past weekend not only to work more on our sea turtle conservation story, but also to help out two of our best friends in The Gambia, Geri and Maurice – who run a truly peaceful eco lodge, ‘Sandele‘, in Kartong – on a campaign to raise awareness of how the ebola crisis in three other West African countries is adversely effecting tourism, and the socioeconomic balance, in #ebolafree Gambia.
I met this wonderfully inspiring, indefatigable couple in 1998 on one of my first trips down here, when they were then running a small hotel called Safari Garden. The forthcoming campaign involves the 32 full time staff employed by Sandele, and the numerous family members their wages help to support.
Later in the day, we hung out again with ex-hunter turned sea turtle conservationist, LJ, as he took us to meet a couple of local guys, who continue to hunt, to enable us to get a fully balanced picture of our ongoing turtle conservation story.
We’ll be posting more about both stories very soon, so please bear with us.
Looking back over some of the marvelous work that our young Gambian students produced, during their Photos Tell Stories Photography Workshops, earlier this year. After running through theory in the classroom, Jason then sent the students out into the field. They came back with some very impressive work – considering the majority of them had never used a camera before – which we exhibited, to a packed gallery, at Alliance Française, here in The Gambia, in May.
This weekend we will be going back down to Kartong, near the border of Senegal, to carry on with our story about the turtle conservation project, which we started last weekend, where we released 20 turtles into the Atlantic Ocean – an wondrous experience. More on that soon…
Aperture Gallery – 547 West 27th Street, #4, New York December 3, 2014 – 6:30 PM
Jason was very fortunate to be chosen to take part in the inaugural RISC(Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues) training course in New York, in 2012, and therefore honored to have one of his ‘Makasutu‘ portraits in the upcoming RISC Benefit & Silent Auction – which features the work of 46 photographers, a short program by RISC founder Sebastian Junger and Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas. Proceeds from ticket and auction sales will help RISC train and equip more freelance conflict journalists in emergency medical response. Bidding opens today – November 19 – online and ends at the benefit.
‘As a response to the increasing dangers they face worldwide, RISC trains journalists to treat life-threatening injuries in the field. The RISC Benefit and Silent Auction… . Proceeds from the auction and event will help RISC train and equip more conflict journalists in emergency medical response.’ RISC Auction
Other contributing photographers, to the auction, include: Richard Mosse, Tim Hetherington, Mike Kamber, Brendan Hoffman, Manjari Sharma, Seamus Murphy, Erica Larsen, Roger Ballen…
There is a real need for the kind of training that RISC gives to photojournalists – for free – who work in some of the most dangerous conflict zones in the world. Please help support their cause – either by bidding or sharing about the auction.
Over the weekend, we made our way down to Kartong – the last village before the border of the Casamance – Southern Senegal, to stay with old friends, Maurice and Geri, at their eco lodge, Sandele. The main purpose of our visit was to interview LJ – an ex- local bush meat hunter, who had a ‘come to conservation‘ moment earlier this year.
LJ now volunteers full time to protect the fragile turtle population and helps to sensitize his fellow villages not to slaughter turtles for meat and poach their eggs. It’s a tough task, considering that there is precious food money to be made from the meat of the majestic fully grown reptiles - they can live to be 80+ years! LJ knows… being one of those people who thought little of wiping out mature turtles with a sharp knife, or raiding nests for eggs to sell or make omelets from, for his family.
We had the honor of releasing 20 Leather Back turtles… an incredible experience, as we watched the tiny reptiles hurtle innately, over the sand, towards the gargantuan Atlantic Ocean. We were awestruck yet fearful… these are ‘lucky’ ones, to have survived the land predators (from hunters, to wild dogs, crabs, birds, and red ants, raiding the pre-hatched eggs), but the baby turtles have many more marine predators awaiting them. Their overall survival rate to maturity is slim.
LJ stood nearby, with a look of paternal proudness and more than a little trepidation. However, he hopes that in fifteen years time, he will be on the same stretch of beach to protect at least one of the female turtles, from this particular hatching, as she returns inherently to the place of her birth, to lay her eggs deep the sand, before heading right back out to sea once again.
We’ll be following closely the progress of LJ – a truly inspiring and dedicated man you will ever hope to meet – and the turtle conservation project, in Kartong, and surrounding coastal area. So, please do check in again (or you can subscribe to updates – simply add your email address in the left hand column). And, if you would like to find out more about how to support the conservation of the turtles – this is a volunteer position for LJ, so we know that any help would be much appreciated - please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Early in January 2013, we completed our ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea Africa odyssey‘, after covering three West African countries, from the source of the river in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea, on into Senegal, finally reaching our journeys end where the River Gambia flows into the Atlantic Ocean in The Republic of The Gambia.
My sister, Joanne, just posted the photo we took of her personalized ‘thank you‘ from Jason and I, which we sent out post-expedition. She was amongst many sponsors and donors who supported our expedition. Our tried and tested method of crowdfunding (we used the same method for ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush‘ in 2009), of ‘an exchange‘: offering fine art prints from a series of images – which would be taken by Jason whilst we were on the journey – enabled us to make the expedition happen. I was just looking back through those thank you’s and wanted to share just a few of them – especially to those of you out there who may be in the midst of your own crowdfunding and trying to think of ways to thank those who donate. Our supporters really responded to our very personal way of saying thank you to each and every one of them. And, it was fun for us, trying to find unique situations – and locations – in which to shoot the thank you photos.
You can see the whole series of ‘thank you’ images on the River Gambia blog here. And to view the body of work that Jason Florio produced, from the journey, you can see them at floriophoto.com
We stopped by the Gambia is Good grocery store and café yesterday, to admire their new signage, and to say ‘esama‘ (good morning) to the staff. On entering the store, we were very pleasantly surprised to see one of Florio’s images from an assignment we worked on for NGO, Concern Universal, here in The Gambia, just before we left on our River Gambia Expedition.
Amongst the shoot locations, on the assignment, was the G.I.G. store, which was then situated in the previous CU compound, in Fajara.
Penda, who manages the GIG store, assured us that they will be brewing fresh coffee in the café, very soon… we’ll be first in line!
It’s great to see Jason’s images from our ‘Tippy Tap‘ assignment – we did a few months back here in The Gambia – for NGO, Concern Universal, up on their new website. For such a simple, affordable, invention the rewards of using the Tippy Tap are tenfold for the people we met… such as Wuday and Alieu.
‘Concern Universal taught Alieu and Wuday’s families about hygiene and handwashing. We taught them how to build a tippy tap and how to keep water safe to drink and use.
Since using a tippy tap, both families no longer get sick. Alieu and Wuday can go to school and their parents can work and look after their family, without needing to spend money on medicine. Alieu and Wuday, now have lots of energy to play! When their friends come to play, they tell them all about how the tippy tap stopped them getting sick. Now their friends want to start using one too!‘ Concern Universal
Now that we are back in The Gambia, we’ll be continuing with a photography project, based on the traditional masquerades of this region of West Africa. Despite Gambia being a predominantly Muslim country, the animist fuelled masquerade ceremonies pre-date the arrival of Islam, and and are still tolerated and practiced around the country. Animism is an intriguing subject – the belief that animals and inanimate objects, such as trees, possess a soul, or a spiritual essence.
Whether it be a circumcision ceremony, celebrating a successful harvest, chasing away evil spirits, enforcing village rules, or simply for entertainment, each particular masquerade plays a central and significant role in many parts of West African society.
Most of the masquerades we’ve seen so far are based on animals. However, the traditions are being hauled into the 21st century, modernised by the use of synthetic fabrics and ornaments, such as Christmas tree baubles, adorning ‘new-style’ masquerades. However, more on those particular masquerades as we move on with the project (sneak preview, below).
We’ve had a busy, adventurous – and extremely exhilarating – kind of week, since we completed our walk of the Gambian coastline, finishing off a couple of travel assignments… from getting up close and personal with big crocodiles, to throttling around in the Gambian bush, getting thoroughly down and dirty in the process, on Tonka Toy-like 200cc quad bikes, alternating with bouncing over potholes in buggys. What fun!
Once the features are published, we’ll be posting more on the coastline walk, the quad-biking, and the crocodile pool. Please stay with us. In the meantime, updates about what else we are up to, down here in West Africa, will be posted on FB, Twitter, and Instagram.
We are particularly honored to except their invitation because, although we are spending an extended period here in West Africa at the moment, New York has been our home for some years now. We only wish we could be there to see it. However, we are more than happy to have ‘River Gambia‘ representing us… floating around on the East River in NYC.
To see more of Jason’s ‘River Gambia‘ series, please visit the website: floriophoto.com. And, if you would like to read about and see more images from the journey – check out our ‘River Gambia Expedition‘ blog.