Meeting the Gambian village chiefs – the Alkalo’s – see their portraits on exhibition for the first time in The Gambia

Something for the weekend…

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.52.51 AM
Expedition leaders, Jason and Helen. on a red dusty road with Paddy, the donkey. From 930km African odyssey


If you are new to the story,  in short, in 2009, photographer, Jason Florio, myself, and three Gambian team mates, two donkeys and a cart to carry camera and camping equipment, walked around the small West African country of The Gambia – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey,  on what would be the first fully documented circumnavigation of the country, completely by foot.


Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.50.47 AM
Alkalo (village chief), Dam Sallah, and the village elders come to welcome the team – Kerr Sat Maram, The Gambia. From 930km African Odyssey. Image © Jason Florio


On the way around, we were warmly welcomed by many, many different Alkalo’s – male and female – who Jason then photographed. The formal portraits  of the chiefs and elders became an award-winning body of work, entitled: ‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘.


Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.53.25 AM
Team mates: Janneh, Jason, with Alkalo Dadi Bah, Helen, & Momadou, in the tiny village of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia. From 930km African Odyssey. Image by team mate, Samba Leigh


Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.59.21 AM
Alkalo Jare Sowe, Jason Florio, & Samba Leigh, Falleng Koto, The Gambia. From 930km African Odyssey. Image © Helen Jones-Florio


'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio
Alkalo Jare Sowe, Felling Kotto, The Gambia – from ‘Silafando’ © Jason Florio


If you are in The Gambia, there is still a few more days to see the ‘Silafando‘ exhibition (until 30th April, 2015), at Gaya Art Cafe, Bertil Harding Highway (next door to Senegambia main craft market). And, to see and read more of the back story of the 930km walk, then please visit our ‘930km African Odyssey‘ blog.


Related Post: ‘Silafando’ exhibition opening

Photo of the Day: construction workers on Lake Kivu barge, Rwanda – by Jason Florio

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 10.05.46 AM
Workers attend to the final construction phase of the KivuWatt barge, Rwanda. Image © Jason Florio, for M.I.T. Technology Review/Redux Pictures NYC


Lake Kivu’s Great Gas Gamble – Rwanda

In a first-of-its-kind endeavor, electricity-starved Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are trying to get power from a lake—and avert catastrophe … . read the full feature here by Jon W. Rosen/ Images © Jason Florio

Press & published work

Press: Review of exhibition opening – ‘Silafando’ – portraits of village chiefs by Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 8.11.47 AM
Photographer, Jason Florio, and photography & expedition producer, Helen Jones-Florio, at the opening of ‘Silafando’ – photo © Anna Wedin, for


A big thank you to Anna Wedin, who came to review the opening of our ‘Silafando‘ exhibition, at Gaya Art Café, Gambia, a couple of weeks ago, for – Jason Florio’s award-winning portraits of Gambian village chiefs (‘alkalos’) and elders were taken whilst we were on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘, completely by foot, in 2009

Read Anna’s review on the site. If you would like to translate the article, try

The exhibition runs through April 30th, 2015. Click here for location details.


Related posts: Exhibition Opening / Silafando / Photo Exhibition – Silafando

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 7.47.40 AM
Jason Florio – Image © Helen Jones-Florio



Press: Kids jumping into ‘exploding’ Lake Kivu, Uganda – image by Jason Florio



Sons of fishermen jumping off fishing boats into Lake Kivu, Uganda – image © Jason Florio, for M.I.T. Technology Review/Redux Pictures NYC


A recent assignment took Florio to Uganda, and the border of DR Congo, to photograph, and film, a fascinating story with writer, Jon W. Rosen, for M.I.T. (Massachusett Institute of Technology)/Technology Review magazine. The piece is about Uganda’s ‘exploding lake (Kivu)’ – read Jon’s full article here, accompanied by Florio’s photographs and videography.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 11.30.32 AM
Lake Kivu, Uganda – image © Jason Florio, for M.I.T. Technology Review/Redux Pictures NYC



Press and published work.


Photo shoot location – Watch out for the crocodiles! The Gambia, West Africa

Those crocodiles are most definitely not ornamental! Jason Florio at work – image © Helen Jones-Florio


Kachikally Sacred Crocodile Pool is certainly an interesting place to shoot – you just need to watch your step, constantly. Thanks to Musa, our fixer and caretaker of the pool, Jason and I met with some young Gambian boys, to work further on our traditional masquerade project, which we started last year, here in The Gambia.

The three boys turned up with a couple of rice sacks, a bunch of leafy branches, and what looked like a few scraps of bright red fabric. Within half an hour, they were transformed into Kankurangs, and  fully in character – jiggling branches, menacingly clashing machetes together, and omitting the rather alarming high-pitched screeches that seem to be the modus operandi of every Kankurang, and which always has the desired effect of unnerving everyone around them.

Jason Florio at work – image © Helen Jones-Florio


I’ll be posting more updates about this ongoing masquerade project as and when we find more subjects to photograph.


HJF – In search of masquerades at the Roots Homecoming Festival, 2014, The Gambia – image © Jason Florio


Related post: Kankurang on the beach




NGO, Concern Universal: Ebola, hygiene, and hand washing – image by Jason Florio

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 2.21.43 PM
Image © Jason Florio for Concern Universal, The Gambia and Senegal, West Africa (click image to ‘like’ CU’s FB page)


To view more of Jason Florio’s images, for CU, in West Africa, please visit their website.

Related posts:

‘Off to work we go… Ebola-free Gambia, for Concern Universal

The Gambia, West Africa, paying the price for being Ebola-Free

Hello…my name is Alieu…Tippy Tap hand-washing hygiene in The Gambia


Photo of the Day: post swim happiness, The Gambia, West Africa

Image © Helen Jones-Florio, Kotu beach, The Gambia, West Africa


I swear this little boy always has the biggest, most infectious, smile on his face… .


Floriotravels on Instagram


Exhibition opening: ‘Silafando’ – Jason Florio’s Gambian village chief portraits

Friday 3rd April, 2015 – Gaya Art Café, The Gambia, West Africa

Abdou & Ebou (2nd & 3rd from left), Helen, Jason, Sarjo (Abdou’s daughter), and Samba Leigh – Gaya Art Cafe exhibition opening


It was an honour to have Gambian team members present (above), at the exhibition opening, from both the ‘Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey 2009 (on which Florio’s ‘Silafando‘ portraits were shot), and from ‘River Gambia – 1044km source-sea African odyssey, 2013-14, expeditions.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


What a pleasure to welcome so many familiar faces and to meet new ones. It’s also not uncommon, at Gambian events, to rub shoulders – have a chat over a drink and canapés, as one does – with Ministers, Ambassadors, High Commissioners… . It’s what I really like about being in this tiny West Africa country – few people, however important their status, are truly unapproachable (Jason even had a brief tête-à-tête with the President a short while ago). For us, this informality has been invaluable in procuring official letters of introduction, to ease our passage as we travelled along by land and river, on both our West Africa expeditions.

So, thank you to all those dignitaries who came to support our arts and culture event last Friday, and especially to friends, old and new. Jason and I came away feeling that we’d tasted a little slice of the exhibition gatherings we love to frequent – when we are at home in New York – here at Gaya Art Café, in The Gambia.

Speaking of Gaya’s – huge thanks to everyone there for all their support and for allowing us to exhibit the Gambian chiefs in such a splendid setting. You guys rock – as does Gregor O’ Gorman, who curates the exhibitions there.

If you missed the opening, fear not. The exhibition will run until the end of April, 2015 – Mon-Saturday – outside in the garden and inside the restaurant.

'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio
Herouna Tunkara with his Horse – ‘Silafando’ The Gambia © Jason Florio


You can see Jason Florio’s complete, award-winning, ‘Silafando‘ body of work on his website :

The Florios – Helen & Jason

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 8.42.05 AM
The Florios with the Gambian chiefs – Silafando’ – at Gaya Art Cafe, The Gambia


‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey’ – photo exhibition opens 3rd April, 2015, in The Gambia, West Africa


Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 7.47.40 AM
Jason Florio with two of his Gambian chiefs, Gaya Art Cafe, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio


One more day to go and we have almost completed the installation process of Jason Florio’s ‘Silafando‘ portraits, at Gaya Art Café, in The Gambia.


MAP_Gambia Expedition map_A3
The 930km walk route map, The Gambia, West Africa


Above is the route that we took, by foot, on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey‘, 2009, around the smallest mainland African country, where Jason took the formal portraits of the village chiefs – the alkalo’s – we stayed with each night, which will all be exhibited from tomorrow night, for one month.

The Gambian chiefs are coming home… at last.

We look forward to welcoming you to our journey – opening event, Fri 3rd April, 3-6pm, Gaya Art Cafe.

The Florio’s – Helen & Jason


A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush
The ‘Short Walk‘ expedition team: Samba Leigh (front), Momadou Cham, Helen Jones-Florio, Jason Florio, Ablie Janneh, and Neil & Paddy (our donkeys on kind loan from The Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust) – Makasutu Culture Forest, post walk, Dec 2009





Photographer, Jason Florio, and the Gambian chief – exhibition opening 3rd April, The Gambia, West Africa

flo taking pic pf Alkalo on skin JPG copy
Image © Helen Jones-Florio, 2006


Jason Florio with the village chief – the alkalo – Massaneh Cham, of Chamin Sosseh, The Gambia, West Africa. Just one of the many portraits, from Florio’s award-winning ‘Silafando‘ body of work, to be exhibited from Friday 3rd April, 2015 – in The Gambia. Taken whilst on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km Africa odyssey‘, with Helen Jones-Florio.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 8.53.59 AM
Image © Jason Florio – ‘Silafando’


If you are in The Gambia, please feel free to come along to the opening:

Friday 3rd April, 2015 – 3-6pm, Gaya Art Cafe, Bertil Harding Highway (next door to the Senegambia craft market).

We hope to see you there!

The Florios (Helen & Jason)

A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush
L-R: The Short Walk team, 2009:- Momadou Cham, Jason Florio, Alkalo Manneh Cham, Helen Jones-Florio, Abdoulie Janneh – Image taken by Samba Leigh (also a team member)


Related posts: Silafando – Photo exhibition, Gambia

documentary photography, workshops, travel…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,358 other followers

%d bloggers like this: