The gift of ‘Silafando’ to Gambian village chiefs, Image West Africa

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 8.27.58 AM
‘Silafando’ – presenting kola nuts to the village chief (the ‘Alkalo’), The Gambia, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio, 2009


‘All the village chiefs we met, very kindly permitted our raggle-taggle, road-weary, team to turn up, unannounced, and pitch our small camp, each evening.

To show our respect, as strangers, when approaching the village chief -the Alkalo – we used the age-old traditional protocol, called ‘silafando’ (which roughly translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey’). The gift of a handful of bitter kola nuts – the walnut-sized nuts play an important role, in the Gambian culture and traditional social life. The chief then shares the nuts with his most important village elders. They break open the nuts  and chew them, which are also valued for their pharmacological properties – they act as a natural stimulant and, apparently, an aphrodisiac. 

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 8.39.25 AM
Helen and the Short Walk team arrive into the village of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio, 2009


Once the gift is accepted, from that point on, everyone knew that we were there as guests of the Alkalo. This meant that we were to be treated with respect, for the duration of our stay. And, if any of the villagers were to disrespect us, then they would have to answer to the Alkalo, along with putting shame on their family‘ . An excerpt from ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘  by Helen Jones-Florio

HJF, Casamance, Senegal, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio


Related post: ‘Silafando’ – portraits of Gambian village chiefs, exhibited for the first time in The Gambia



Published by Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

Award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and writer, Jason Florio (, and photographer, producer, videographer and writer, Helen Jones-Florio Twitter @floriophotonNYC Instagram Instagram Instagram Instagram

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: