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 However, because the incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh, had rescinded his acceptance of the winning vote, in December 2016 – a week after Gambians had decided enough was enough and voted for Adama Barrow’s coalition government –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
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Jan 26, 2017 – President Adama Barrow returns home to The Gambia, West Africa

Welcome home, Mr. President!

A new era for The Gambia, West Africa

President Adama Barrow, the Republic of The Gambia © Jason Florio
President Adama Barrow smiles at the camera during the four-hour cavalcade from Banjul International Airpor to his home, the Republic of The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

On this day Jan 26th, 2017

A triumphant and momentous day for The Gambia, West Africa. Ten’s of thousands of euphoric Gambians lined the streets for miles – and miles! (an estimated over 100,000 Gambians flocked the main road) – to welcome home their new president, Adama Barrow. Due to potential security risks, Barrow had briefly exiled himself to neighbouring Senegal, where he was inaugurated at the Gambian Embassy, Dakar.

Gambia's new president, Adama Barrow, at Banjul Airport, The Gambia ©Jason Florio
Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, disembarks at Banjul Airport,The Gambia, after being sworn in in Dakar, Senegal, for security reasons ©Jason Florio

 

A new era for the Gambia - President Adama Barrow arrives at Banjul Airport, from Dakar, to a monumental reception! ©Helen Jones-Florio
A new era for the Gambia – President Adama Barrow arrives at Banjul Airport, from Dakar, to a monumental reception! ©Helen Jones-Florio

Gambians ware ready for change. Finally, a democracy, after 22-years of the dictatorial rule of Yayha Jammeh.

President Adama Barrow returns to The Gambia, after exile in Senegal - an estimated 100,000 people lined the main roads, to welcome him home © Jason Florio
President Adama Barrow returns to The Gambia, after exile in Senegal – an estimated 100,000 people lined the main roads, to welcome him home © Jason Florio

See more on floriophoto.com‘ #GambiaHasDecided’

#GambiaHasDecided - supporters of the new President Adama Barrow, The Gambia © Jason Florio
#GambiaHasDecided – supporters of the new President Adama Barrow, The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

A young Gambian man raises the Victory sign, in celebration of the new president, Adama Barrow, Westfields, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
A young Gambian man, wearing a #GambiaHasDecided t-shirt, raises the Victory sign, in celebration of the new president, Adama Barrow, Westfields, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

See the trailer for our new documentary, made for Amnesty International

We Never Gave Up – Stories of Courage in Gambia

Instagram @floriotravels / @jasonflorio

Gambian celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio
Instagram – Gambian woman celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio

Gambian celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio

Instagram – Gambians celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

_________

 

Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

2019 – Currently working on ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime#Portraits4PositiveChange

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Photo of the Day – ‘The Hunting’ traditional masquerades, The Gambia © Jason Florio

'The Hunting' traditional masquerades, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio photography
‘The Hunting’ traditional masquerades, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio.

 

Aside from the more serious element to our work – particularly, what we are working on at the moment, ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime#Portraits4PositiveChange – we have also been working on another long-term series of the traditional masquerades of The Gambia.

Although the Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country, the animist-fuelled masquerade ceremonies pre-date the arrival of Islam and are still tolerated and practiced around the country. Animism is an intriguing subject – the belief that animals and inanimate objects, such as trees, possess a soul, or a spiritual essence.

Also, the juxtaposition between the urban environment and these ancient traditions is fascinating – just like ‘The Hunting’, pictured, in the concrete and corrugated iron enclave of a compound in the capital city of Banjul.

Jason Florio photographs 'The Hunting', traditional masquerades, Banjul, Gambia - Image © Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio photographs ‘The Hunting’, traditional masquerades, Banjul, Gambia – Image © Helen Jones-Florio @floriotravels/Instagram.

 

Whether it be a circumcision ceremony, celebrating a successful harvest, chasing away evil spirits, enforcing village rules, or simply for entertainment, each particular masquerade plays a central and significant role in many parts of West African society.

'Fairies' traditional masquerades, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio photography
‘Fairies’ traditional masquerades, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

 

Most of the masquerades we’ve seen so far are based on animals. However, the traditions are being hauled into the 21st century, modernised by the use of synthetic fabrics and ornaments, such as Christmas tree baubles, adorning ‘new-style’ masquerades. However, more on those particular masquerades as we move on with the long-term project (sneak preview, below).

Helen Jones- Florio & Jason Florio.

Photographers, Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia, West Africa selfie
Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia

 

Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

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The Gambia – Photographer/filmmaker, Jason Florio, making #Portraits4PositiveChange

 Jason Florio, with Yusepha Mbye, who was shot in the back by security forces in 2000 student protest - making #Portraits4PositiveChange #Gambia - image, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio – making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia – image, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

‘Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime’
#portraits4positivechange

On location, in The Gambia: Yesterday Jason Florio photographed Yusepha, who was shot in the back by the Yahya Jammeh regime’s security forces, during a peaceful student protest in April 2000. He is paralyzed from the neck down. He was just 18 years old.

The April 2000 Gambian student massacre was the killing of 14 people (and one accidental death) by Gambian police officers and soldiers on the 10 April 2000 at a student protest in Banjul, the Gambia.

Please check out our GoFundMe page for more info on this project, or to donate/share.

 

Jugana Susso, was arrested and detained during a peaceful demonstration by President Jammeh's feared security services. She was tortured and beaten so badly on her legs she has problems walking even around her own home ©Jason Florio
Jugana Susso, was arrested and detained during a peaceful demonstration by President Jammeh’s feared security services ©Jason Florio
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