Both of us have always been fascinated by the traditional Gambian ‘masquerades’ – after having seen many over the years, throughout the country and in neighboring Senegal – dynamic, wonderfully mysterious, and sometimes down right dark and scary!
Whether it be a circumcision ceremony, celebrating a successful harvest, chasing away evil spirits, enforcing village rules, or simply for entertainment, masquerades play a central and significant role in many parts of West African society.
Before we left The Gambia last month – a short hiatus to spend time with family – we began to work on the masquerade project…
We’re also working closely with the Gambia National Centre for Arts and Culture – to produce a series of masquerade portraits for an exhibition in the near future. There is an abundance of masquerades – from the ‘Cumpo‘, ‘Kankurang‘, ‘The Hunter‘, ‘Agomalah’, to the stilted ‘Monpara‘. We look forward to exploring these more fully, when we return to West Africa in the coming months – delving deep into the origins and traditions of each one we meet; to create a photographic anthropology of the traditional masquerade
On the opening night of the Photos Tell Stories exhibition, we were very fortunate to be introduced to highly accomplished Togolese artist, Amigoe Dieudonné . During further meetings, Amigoe – an articulate, charismatic man – began to tell us the compelling story of his life, since leaving his Togolese home and family at 19 years old, living as a disabled artist, in various countries in West Africa. And, how his travels have shaped the very distinctive art he produces today.
We began to film and photograph Amigoe – again, shortly before we left The Gambia – who invited us into to his home and studio, to fully share with us the rich and vibrant tapestry of his life. We look forward to continuing this story too, when we return.
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We would like to extend our thoughts to all those, in West Africa, who have been affected by the recent Ebola crisis, and we pray that it does not spread further.
Along with updates we post on here, we’ll be adding our travel photos to our new Instagram page: floriotravels – featuring photos from Jason Florio and myself whether they be work, play, or simply day-to-day life scenes that capture our imagination. Please feel free to ‘follow‘
At the moment, we are having a short hiatus from West Africa – a few thousand miles north, in the UK, visiting family and friends – recharging our batteries, ready to head back down there in a few weeks time. However, we sorely miss strolls on the beach…
Walking the dogs at dawn on deserted beaches…
And, we particularly look forward to going back to work in the field…
Since completely the inaugural ‘Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language‘ workshops, in The Gambia, West Africa, Jason Florio and I have worked on a number of diverse assignments, here in West Africa – a couple of them together, just over the border into the Casamance, Southern Senegal, for NGO Concern Universal, and then north over the border into Senegal for the New York Times, covering a story about a football academy (conveniently timely!). Jason then flew off to Sierra Leone, to shoot a story about ethical diamond mining for ‘Oprah‘ Magazine; and he recently returned from Turkey and Spain, where he was on assignment for PepsiCo, about agriculture (yet to be published).
‘Camped on the rock, post potential-mutiny, I was now self-medicating with palm-wine, and concluded it was a fine lubricant to complement the bowl of noodles and some mystery meat a young local Bassari boy brought to us. I would like to say, that huddled around a bowl of possible monkey meet on such a Christian holy day...’ words and images by Jason Florio. Please click on the image below to read the whole story.
We’ll be updating again soon…with more Photos Tell Stories news of what we are up to. In the meantime, you might like to check out our FB page, twitter, and Instagram, for photos and news.
We arrived in The Gambia, West Africa, early December, 2013, by invitation from the US Embassy, Banjul, to teach a series of photography workshop – ‘Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language‘. Our aim was to show young Gambian students, between the ages of 13-20 years old, how to see their ‘home‘ – the villages and towns which they live – through the eye of a camera. And, more importantly, to show us – as guests on their home turf – how they viewed their environment and how they wanted it to be portrayed.
After a morning in the classroom, where Jason took them through the history of photography – showing the work of renowned international photographers, past and present – and various techniques, we gave them the cameras and sent them out, to photograph. Most of the students had never used a camera, other than perhaps snapshots with their phones.
Looking back over the inaugural of ‘Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language‘ workshops, which we taught earlier this year here in The Gambia, West Africa (thanks to the US Embassy, Banjul, for partnering with us). And, we can happily say that we are still as impressed by the quality of the young students photography – especially because almost all of them had never used a camera before.
‘Photos Tell Stories‘ photography workshop: The Kombos region, The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa – students were chosen from various senior secondary schools in the region.
A slideshow selection of work from the students – taken during their portraiture class with P.T.S.‘s photographer and tutor, Jason Florio, and their ‘Home‘ work assignment:
Above – a small selection of some of sixty creative images from our young Gambian photography students, on exhibit at Alliance Française (until tomorrow, that is!), here in The Gambia, West Africa.
However, after a very successful exhibition opening night – with national tv coverage/media in attendance – and the subsequent two week run, tomorrow (Saturday 31st May), sadly, it’s time to take down the ‘Photos Tell Stories – photographs of The Gambia by Gambians‘ . However, we’ll pack our Gambian photography students prints with great care so that, perhaps, in the not too distance future, we can exhibit them again.