One year ago, today – 22/01/2017 – on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa

Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt - image © Helen Jones-Florio
Kairaba Avenue  (‘Pipeline’), The Gambia- – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

This time last year, we had already been in the Gambia since the beginning of January. We had traveled back down to the small West African country, to document the transition of a 22-year long dictatorship to a democracy. However, because the incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh, had rescinded his acceptance of the winning vote, in December 2016 – a week after Gambians had decided enough was enough and voted for Adama Barrow’s coalition government – he was refusing to step down.

Ex-president, Yahya Jammeh, with his ever-present security force ©Jason Florio
Then-president, Yahya Jammeh, with his ever-present security force ©Jason Florio

 

Therefore, the last month of 2016 and into those first few weeks of 2017, Gambia was in a state of flux – the unpredictability of what Jammeh would do next was almost tangible.

“We are so stressed by his (Jammeh’s) refusal to step down,

an old Gambian friend told us, “we are ready for change. He must go”, she went on. Even in the safety of our compound, she still spoke in hushed tones – the ingrained fear of 22-years of autocracy, that someone would over-hear and report her, was still very prevalent.

After much intervention from the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), on January 21st, 2017, Jammeh eventually agreed to leave the country, exiled to Equatorial Guinea (a West African country which is not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – therefore, he could not be extradited).

E-Presiden, Yahya Jammeh, leaves the Gambia - 21/1/207 ©Jason Florio
Ex-President, Yahya Jammeh, leaves the Gambia – 21/1/207 ©Jason Florio

 

#GambiaHasDecided!

Meeting people on the streets of Banjul, on the 22nd January 2017, couldn’t have been more different from the quietly uttered words, previously spoken by my friend -‘GAMBIA HAS DECIDED!‘, shouted, triumphantly, at us everywhere we went. And, #GambiaHasDecided t-shirt’s worn proudly and without fear – just one day before most people would not dare to wear them so openly. But, now Gambians knew for certain, the dictator had been flown out of the country.

A chance meeting with an inspiring bunch of people, on the streets of Banjul, Gambia
A chance meeting with an inspiring bunch of people, on the streets of Banjul, Gambia

 

The above group were on the streets of the capital, welcoming back and directing the thousands of Gambians to free transportation, back to their hometowns and villages – those who had fled the country, across the river into neighbouring Senegal and beyond in fear, when Jammeh had refused to step down and ECOWAS troops massed on the border, ready to intervene.

#GambiaHasDecided - Gambian boys wearing their t-shirts for President Barrow Senegal inauguration celebrations, at Westfields junction, in The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
#GambiaHasDecided – President Barrow Senegal inauguration celebrations in The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Thousands of Gambians returning back to the Gambia, the day after ex-president Jammeh is exiled to Equatorial-Guinea ©Jason Florio
Thousands of Gambians returning back to the Gambia, the day after ex-president Jammeh is exiled to Equatorial-Guinea ©Jason Florio

 

In October of 2017, at the invitation of Amnesty International, we spent a month making a documentary of the stories of human rights defenders, activists, and victims of the Jammeh regime – this is the trailer:  ‘We Never Gave up – Stories of Courage in Gambia’.

So much has happened in one short year, and so much more still to be done. Jason Florio and I will no doubt be back down there in the coming months, to carry on where we left off, documenting change in the Gambia. We’ll keep you posted!

 

Helen Jones-Florio

 

Follow us on Instagram @floriotravels / @jasonflorio

Photography workshops, The Gambia, with Jason Florio

Photography Workshops, The Gambia: Student portrait workshop - Kombos, The Gambia, West Africa, West Africa. Image ©Jason Florio
Photography Workshops, The Gambia: Student portrait workshop – The Gambia, West Africa. Image ©Jason Florio

We had a very timely reminder on FB this morning, about our last photography workshop, in The Gambia, January 2014. Timely, because this time next week we will be holding our next workshop, in-country.

Student portrait photography workshop - The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Ya Ida Drammeh. With Jason Florio
Photography Workshops, The Gambia: Image by workshop student, Ya Ida Drammeh

Photography Workshops, The Gambia

January 2014, Photography Workshop, The Gambia: The students spent most the first day in the classroom with their tutor, photographer and filmmaker, Jason Florio, where he covered the following topics: a brief history of photography; what is a photograph; portraiture; environmental portraiture; reportage; landscape photography (including showing the students images from all of our contributing photographers); guides and techniques; what makes a good photograph; rules of photography (rule of thirds, leading lines, etc.); lighting; editing…

Student portrait workshop - Kombos, The Gambia, West Africa. Image by  Aisha P.Njie. With Jason Florio
Photography Workshops, The Gambia: Image by Aisha P.Njie

The resulting work, by the young students, culminated in an exhibition at Alliance Francaise, in The Gambia

The Gambia - Opening night of Photos Tell Stories exhibition - the photography students with Jason Florio and  Helen Jones-Florio
Photography Workshops, The Gambia: Opening night of Photos Tell Stories exhibition – the photography students with workshop tutors, Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio

PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS, THE GAMBIA

Photography Workshops, The Gambia - Image © Malang Jarju, Kartong, The Gambia
Photography Workshops, Kartong, The Gambia – image by Malang Jarju

Each evening, at the end of the workshop, in each region that we taught, the students’ work was exhibited in the village.

Exhibiting photography students work on a big screen, The Gambia, West Africa ©Jason Florio
Exhibiting the photography students work on a large screen, at night, The Gambia, West Africa ©Jason Florio

PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS, THE GAMBIA

January 2020 Photography Workshops – Keep an eye out for updates from our next workshop – this time, with young Gambian journalists and their photographs of their Gambia.

Photographer & workshop tutors, Jason Florio & helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia
Teaching movement in photography – workshop tutors, Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio by student Gerald Soweh

To find out more about booking a Photos Tell Stories photography workshop, or presentation, check this out.

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Stories Behind Doors, The Gambia

The gate to the compound of the late Omar Barrow, shot dead by Gambian security forces in 2009. Image © Helen Jones-Florio
The gate to the compound of the late Omar Barrow who was shot dead by Gambian security forces in 2009. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

Stories Behind Doors, The Gambia: Behind this gate is the family compound of ‘the late Omar Barrow’ (which, when asking for directions, is how the house is described by neighbours). On April 10, 2000 – Omar, a journalist, and International Community Red Cross volunteer, was shot by a uniformed member of Gambia’s security forces during student protests, as he was trying to help injured students at the Red Cross Headquarters. Tragically, he was pronounced dead a few hours later at Banjul’s Victoria Hospital. Omar was 28 years old. He is survived by his wife, Awa, and daughter, Fatou (who was only a few months old when her father was killed) – who we met and photographed for our on-going multi-media series, ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters

#StoriesBehindDoors

Photographer, Jason Florio, makes a portrait of Awa Barrow, holding a phone picture of her husband, Omar Barrow, who was shot dead by Gambian security forces, on April 10, 2000, during student protests in The Gambia. Omar's daughter, Fatou, looks on. She was only a few months old when her father was killed. His mother sits in the background. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio
Photographer, Jason Florio, makes a portrait of Awa Barrow, holding a phone picture of her husband, Omar Barrow, who was shot dead by Gambian security forces, on April 10, 2000, during student protests in The Gambia. Omar’s daughter, Fatou, looks on. She was only a few months old when her father was killed. His mother sits in the background. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio

#NeverAgainGambia

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TRRC Billboard – Victims and Resisters #NeverAgainGambia

TRRC Billboard – Gambia victims, and resisters. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange

‘The TRRC is not a court of law. It cannot prosecute or give amnesty. It can only recommend for prosecution or the granting of amnesty’

Billboard – Gambia Victims, and Resisters. Through these portraits and collected testimonies, we share the plight of the victims of the former regime of Yahya Jammeh. Huge respect and thanks to the British High Commission Banjul, the Truth Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC), and UNDPGambia, for their support.

‘Gambia – victims, and Resisters’

See more of this on-going, multi-media, body of work at floriophoto.com. A collaboration between Jason Florio &  Helen Jones-Florio

Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia – Awa (with her daughter, and mother-in-law) holds her phone with one of the few photographs that she has of her late husband, Omar Barrow, who was a journalist, and International Community Red Cross volunteer. Omar was shot by a uniformed member of Gambia’s security forces during student protests, April 2000, as he was trying to help injured students at the Red Cross Headquarters. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange


Currently, in The Gambia, West Africa – Assignments queries

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