After Jason and I finished our inaugural ‘Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language‘ photography workshops, in Gambia, West Africa – the culmination of which was an exhibition of the young Gambian students work at Alliance Française – we began to look around for new photography projects in the region.

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!

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Image © Jason Forio – the ‘Asamayo’ or ‘Agomalah’ for NGO Concern Universal – Forest festival, Koudioubé, in the Casamance, Senegal

 

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…

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Image © Jason Florio – ‘Little Devil’ a sneak peak at one of the masquerades, Kembujeh village, The Gambia, West Africa

 

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

 

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Image © Jason Florio – Amigoe at home, surrounded by his paintings.

 

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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Image © Jason Florio – Amigoe at work in his studio, The Gambia, West Africa

 

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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.

More news soon…

The Florios – Helen & Jason

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Helen & Jason – opening night of the Photos Tell Stories exhibition – Gambia TV & Radio (about 47 seconds in!) – click image to view footage
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