#GambiaHasDecided – one year in

#GambiaHasDecided hashtag campaign founders, The Gambia, West Africa ©Helen Jones-Florio
#GambiaHasDecided hashtag campaign founders, Bakau, The Gambia, West Africa. L-R: Lamin, Gilleh, Asta, Salieu  ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

The Gambia – the smallest country on the African continent – has come a long way since this time last year and the beginning of what, doubtlessly, will be an incredibly long journey.

It’s always a pleasure to see these guys, the founders of what became one of the most important, impactful, social media campaigns to come out of West Africa.

#gambiahasdecided 
Inauguration banners for President Adama Barrow - image ©Helen Jones-Florio , 2017. — with Andrew Renneisen and Jason Florio.
Inauguration banners for President Adama Barrow – image ©Helen Jones-Florio , 2017. — with Andrew Renneisen and Jason Florio.

 

#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

 

Related posts – New Gambia
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#GambiaHasDecided

 

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Image © Jason Florio – Ex-President Yahya Jammeh leaving The Gambia to fly into exile in Guinea

 

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Image ©Helen Jones-Florio – Ex-President Yahya Jammeh leaving The Gambia to fly into exile in Guinea

 

 

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Image ©Jason Florio – Waiting for Jammeh – Press Gang, Yundum/Banjul Airport, The Gambia

 

Follow us on Instagram @floriotravels for daily photo updates

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One year ago, today: 26th Jan, 2017 – The new president of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, returns home

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

 

Jan 26th, 2017: A triumphant and momentous day for The Gambia, West Africa. Hundreds of thousands of euphoric Gambians lined the streets for miles – and miles! – to welcome home their new president, Adama Barrow. (Due to potential security risks, Barrow had 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

Documentary for Amnesty International - press release
‘We Never Gave Up – stories of courage in Gambia’ Documentary for Amnesty International – press release
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

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

“We Never Gave Up: Stories of Courage in Gambia” – Amnesty International Documentary

“We Never Gave Up: Stories of Courage in Gambia

A Louise Hunt & Jason Florio Production for Amnesty International

the trailer

At the end of last year, we were commissioned by Amnesty International, West Africa, to make a documentary about the human rights defenders, and activists, who worked tirelessly, and often at their own risk, to stand up for those who had been abused and tortured – including working for the families of those who had ‘disappeared‘ – under the 22-year dictatorship of President Yahya Jammeh.

Screen-grab from documentary: Dec 2016, Yahya Jammeh goes live on air to rescind the recent elections, whereby the majority of the country voted him out
Screen-grab from documentary trailer: Dec 2016, Yahya Jammeh goes live on air to rescind the recent elections, after the majority of the country voted him out

 

Director of Photography/Co-Producer, Jason Florio, with Foroyaa newspaper editor, Samuel Sarr, at his printing press
Director of Photography/Co-Producer, Jason Florio, with Foroyaa newspaper editor, Samuel Sarr, in his printing press. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)

 

Having traveled, lived, and worked, over the last 20 years, on various assignments and personal projects, in the Gambia, Florio and I were always aware of its dark underbelly. We heard ‘the stories‘ of abuse, torture, disappearances, murder even. And, in a country which depends largely on tourism – the pull of beautiful sandy beaches, year-long sunshine, languorous boat trips on the River Gambia, technicolored sunsets – you’d be extremely hard pushed, if you only visited for a holiday, to have any notion at all of the graveness of what was going on, in the small West Africa country.

Jugana, one of the victims of Jammeh's torturous regime, being filmed by Jason Florio ©Helen Jones-Florio
Jugana Suso, a victim of Jammeh’s torturous regime, being filmed by Jason Florio ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

For 22 years, we documented Gambians living in a climate of fear. Their rights were denied and many were subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, and widespread surveillance. But even in those dark days, there were people brave enough to stand up and challenge the abuse of power.” 

Screen-grab from the documentary #GambiaHasDecided, Bakau ©Jason Florio
Screen-grab from the documentary trailer #GambiaHasDecided, Bakau ©Jason Florio

“Whether they were journalists, human rights lawyers, community leaders, young activists or victims of abuses, they never gave up. Our film portrays their stories, showing the world a lesson that what happened in Gambia is proof of the power and change that human rights defenders can bring about.Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Regional Director.

Preparing to interview Imam Baba Leigh at his home ©Helen Jones-Florio
Preparing to interview Imam Baba Leigh at his home – a former prisoner and victim of torture – with sound man, Pa Ebou Sossey ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

Jason Florio filming at the Foroyaa newspaper print shop ©Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)
Jason Florio filming at the Foroyaa newspaper print shop ©Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)

 

Human rights lawyers: L-R ©Helen Jones-Florio
Human rights lawyers, with their client, Jugana Suso: L-R: Hawa Sisay Sabally, Rachel Yvonne Mendy, Juguna Suso, Yassin Sanghor © Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)

 

The facilitators of the #GambiaHasDecided campaign ©Helen Jones-Florio
The inspiring people behind the far-reaching and incredibly influential #GambiaHasDecided campaign – Lamin Saidykhan, Gilleh Thomas, Asta Jobe, Salieu Taal ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

Filming human rights lawyer, xxxx, in her home © Helen Jones-FlorioFilming human rights lawyer, xxxx, in her home © Helen Jones-Florio
Filming human rights lawyer, Yassin Sanghor at in her home © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Car bumper sticker '#MyTribeIsGambian © Helen Jones-Florio
Car bumper sticker ‘#MyTribeIsGambian © Helen Jones-Florio

 

To have all those stories,  Jammeh’s reign of fear and terror,  Florio and I had only heard whispers about over the years (until April 2016, when Gambians came to the streets to protest after the death in custody of activist Solo Sandeng), our Gambian friends only ever spoke sotto voce about what was going on, confirmed by those who had actually lived them was both incredibly disturbing and humbling. Now, with a new president, they have the freedom to speak out, have their voices heard.

Louise Hunt, write and co-producer, interviews Salieu Taal (#GambiaHasDecided), Saffy J's Restaurant, Bakau ©Helen Jones-Florio
Louise Hunt, writer/co-producer, interviews Salieu Taal (#GambiaHasDecided), Saffie J’s Restaurant, Bakau ©Helen Jones-Florio (2nd Camera)

We are truly thankful to every single person who shared their experiences, those who worked with us on the documentary, and Amnesty International for inviting us to make the documentary, in a place that we feel is a second home.

The Florios

Photos Tell Stories – documentary, photography, travel

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

 

Follow us on Instagram @floriotravels / @jasonflorio for updates on

when and where you can see the full documentary

 

Looking back: River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey (youtube)

 

River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey’footage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio From the source of the River Gambia, in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea, into Senegal, and onto The Gambia, West Africa, to the Atlantic Ocean’ (2012-2013) – See/read more at River Gambia Expedition 

 

Related: ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey’

President Adama Barrow Inauguration Day on Gambian Soil

The arrival of President Adama Barrow of the Republic of The Gambia, to Bakau Stadium - to be sworn in on Gambia soil © Helen Jones-Florio
Arrival: President Adama Barrow of the Republic of The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

An incredible day and an equally incredible time in the history of The Gambia, West Africa – Feb 18th, 2017

ECOWAS troops photograph the crowds, with their phones at Bakau Stadium © Helen Jones-Florio
ECOWAS troops photograph the crowds, with their phones at Bakau Stadium © Helen Jones-Florio

 

A female singer watches President Barrow being sworn in, as she waits to sing the Gambian National Anthem, Bakau Stadium © Helen Jones-Florio
Female singer, Aurellia Prom, waits to sing the Gambian National Anthem, Bakau Stadium © Helen Jones-Florio 

 

Gambian troops stand to attention, as they wait for the arrival of President Adama Barrow, Bakau Stadium © Helen Jones-Florio
Gambian troops wait for the arrival of President Adama Barrow, Bakau Stadium © Helen Jones-Florio

 

The brass band perform for President Adama Barrow, Bakau Stadium, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
The brass band perform for President Adama Barrow, Bakau Stadium, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
The red carpet to the podium where President Barrow is sworn in, Bakau Stadium © Helen Jones-Florio
The red carpet to the podium where President Barrow is sworn in, Bakau Stadium © Helen Jones-Florio

See more at:

President Adama Barrow of the Republic of The Gambia

President Adama Barrow – Inauguration & Independence Day, Feb 18th, 2016

#NewGambia – images ©Jason Florio

#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

All images © Helen Jones-Florio

Helen Jones-Florio at Bakau Stadium, on the eve of the inauguration ceremony, The Gambia
Helen Jones-Florio at Bakau Stadium, on the eve of the inauguration ceremony

Gambian photography workshops students, Kartong village, The Gambia – ‘Photos Tell Stories’ with Jason Florio

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Image © Alieu Bojang, Kartong village, The Gambia
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Image © Alieu Bojang, Kartong village, The Gambia

We just returned from the village of Kartong, after teaching another successful ‘Photos Tell Stories‘ photography workshop with students chosen from the Press Club of St Martins Basic Cycle School. Not one of the students had used a digital camera before – although a couple of the students used their phone cameras sometimes.  After a morning of theory, with tutor and photographer, Jason Florio,  in the classroom, we sent them off to photograph the village in which they lived. Yet again, we were captivated by the work that they produced throughout the day. The average age of the students was fifteen years old.

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Image © Binta Jarju, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Binta Jarju, Kartong, The Gambia

These are just a few samples of the Press Club students work – which, at the end of their days shoot, they edited with the help of workshop tutor and photographer, Jason Florio.  Then, as we have been doing after all of the Gambian workshops, projected  their images onto the cinema-sized inflatable screen (thanks to Josh and the guys at the US Embassy, Banjul – our main partners for the workshops in The Gambia),  later that evening – to audience of around 150 enraptured villagers!

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Image © Dwada Bojang, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Dwada Bojang, Kartong, The Gambia
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The Kartong school Press Club students receive their ‘Photos Tell Stories’ certificates – with thanks to Bobbie Bethall for all her help © Jason Florio
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Image © Edward Badjie, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Edward Badjie, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Famara Jatta, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Famara Jatta, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Fatou Manneh, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Fatou Manneh, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Lucy Njoku, Kartiong, The Gambia
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Image © Lucy Njoku, Kartiong, The Gambia
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Image © Malang Jarju, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Malang Jarju, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Malang Jarju, Kartong, The Gambia

If you would like to find out more about ‘Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language‘ with award-winning photographer, Jason Florio, and producer, Helen Jones-Florio, please check out this link.

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Image © Mariama Tourey, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Mariama Tourey, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Marie Manneh, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Marie Manneh, Kartong, The Gambia

We also had an overseas guest for our Kartong workshop, our nephew, Tyrone Florio; who had recently flown in from the UK. Tyrone is studying photography and decided he wanted to come out and help us with the workshops. However, there is no room for nepotism in the ‘Photos Tell Stories‘ camp as we set Tyrone the same assignment as the rest of our students. We think he did very well too.

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Image © Tyrone Florio, Kartong, The Gambia
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Image © Tyrone Florio, Kartong, The Gambia

Thanks to FujiFilm, USA, for the digital cameras which our ‘Photos Tell Stories’ Gambian students used to produce some very creative, insightful,  and encouraging work. Encouraging, because it has spurred us on to want to do more workshops in West Africa.

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Image © Tyrone Florio, Kartong, The Gambia 

We’ll be adding more work from our other workshops over the coming week – along with ‘Behind-the-Scenes‘ images. In the meantime, please check out what we have up here so far on our ‘Photos Tell Students Students Work‘ page.

Thank you for stopping by.

The Florios

Helen Jones-Florio – Photos Tell Stories producer

Jason Florio – Photos Tell Stories photographer and tutor

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“I am Amigoe Dieudonné – Artist Painter” West Africa

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VIMEO: Filmed & produced by Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio ©Jason Florio/Florio Studio. Click here to view

 

Update: April 26th, 2017: Amigoe needs a little help, to enable him to exhibit his work in Belgium  

The above short video portrait of Amigoe was shot in The Gambia. He has travelled for over fifteen years around West Africa in his wheelchair, which is by no means an easy feat – as Florio and I witnessed for ourselves, whilst following him around, filming, in Gambia – especially when he only has the use of one arm, having been paralyzed in his legs and left arm since he was a young boy. Amigoe’s determined travels saw him stopping along the way to create extensive bodies of work (he told us that in one place he lived outside, in a park for months on end, painting beneath the shade of a big tree) which he exhibits and sells wherever possible to be able to continue his odyssey.

We first met Amigoe at the opening night of our Photos Tell Stories – ‘The Gambia by Gambians‘ – photography exhibition, at the Alliance Française in Banjul. He asked us if we would shoot the short bio, to enable him to approach potential clients and galleries for exhibitions.

 

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Amigoe at work in his house in The Gambia, with Jason Florio © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Last year, true to his independent and ever-inquisitive nature of the past fifteen years, Amigoe decided to make the arduous overland journey to Bamako, Mali, to see if he could expand his artistic career. He is now back in his homeland of Togo, where he returned to for the first time in many, many years to apply for a new passport – ever hopeful to fulfill his dream of being invited to Europe or the US to exhibit his work.

 

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Amigoe working on a new painting for an exhibition in The Gambia  ©Helen Jones-Florio
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Florio, Amigoe, and fellow artists, at his former home in Cape Point, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
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Amigoe surrounded by his paintings, preparing for a forthcoming exhibition at the Alliance Francaise, in Banjul, The Gambia ©Jason Florio

 

As always, we wish Amigoe – the artist painter – all success in his continuing odyssey.

HJF

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Florio and Helen – a salon print sale, at home in NYC © Stefan Falke

Multimedia: ‘I am Amigoe Dieudonné – The Artist Painter’ continues his odyssey

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VIMEO: Filmed & produced by Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio ©Jason Florio/Florio Studio. Click here to view

 

Update: April 26th, 2017: Amigoe needs a little help, to enable him to exhibit his work in Belgium  

A short video portrait shot in The Gambia, of Togolese painter Amigoe Dieudonné, who has traveled for over thirteen years around West Africa in his wheelchair, stopping along the way to create extensive bodies of work, which he exhibits and sells to be able to continue his odyssey.

We met Amigo, last year, whilst living in The Gambia, West Africa, at the opening night of our Photos Tell Stories – ‘The Gambia by Gambians‘ – exhibition. He asked us if we would film a short bio, to enable him to approach potential clients and galleries.

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Amigoe at work in his house in The Gambia, with Jason Florio © Helen Jones-Florio

A few months ago, true to his independent and ever-inquisitive nature of the past thirteen years, Amigoe decided to make the arduous overland journey to Bamako, Mali, to see if he could expand his artistic career. He recently contacted us to give us some great news – thanks to the Senegalese Chamber of Commerce he, and a select number of other artists, have been given the opportunity to travel to Germany to exhibit their work. Amigoe is currently back in his homeland of Togo, waiting for his new passport.

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©Helen Jones-Florio
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Florio, Amigoe, and fellow artists, at his former home in Cape Point, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
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©Jason Florio

We wish him all success in his continuing odyssey. Watch this space, as we’ll be keeping a close eye on his progress.

Bon voyage, Amigoe – the artist, painter!

UPDATE: January 2016 – Please check out the Go Fund Me campaign, set up independently by Ashley Chiles of TX, to help raise money for Amigoe so that he may achieve some of his goals. 

Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio

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