The Gambia – finding truth and reconciliation

TRRC billboard, depicting portraits from ‘Gambia – victims. and resisters’ Image ©Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

The tiny West African republic, The Gambia, is a popular winter-sun holiday destination for Europeans. However, most tourists have little idea of the dark and shattered underbelly of ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’, as the Gambia is fondly called. From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia as his fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition with brutality. His personal hit squad and National Intelligence Agency carried out tortures, assassinations, and acts of sexual violence with impunity – journalists were gunned down and disappeared, students shot in cold blood, and even his cousins were murdered on his order. 

Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of a man wearing a t-shirt with a photo of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Dedyra Hydara ©Jason Florio
A man wears a t-shirt with a photo of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Dedyra Hydara ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

In October 2018 The Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) launched in The Gambia – a televised commission investigating the human rights violations under the 22-year dictatorial rule of President Yahya Jammeh. The TRRC, suspended over the past couple of months due to COVID19, will resume today, Monday 8th June 2020, hearing testimonies from the victims and survivors of Jammeh’s rule, along with those of the alleged perpetrators. It is a long, and extremely painful process for many, to finally have their voices heard, but also to see and hear the voices of those who are implicated in meting out shocking tortures, killings, and human rights abuses, and about what happened to their loved ones. 

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’

#Portraits4PostiveChange

For over three years, we have been collaborating closely with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and the TRRC; and have created permanent and mobile exhibitions of the portraits and testimonies. The exhibitions have now become part of Victims Centre and TRRC outreach work around the country, to bring the stories of victims to the people, to create dialogue and discussion around human rights and justice in this fledgling democracy – in hopes of opening eyes and winning hearts and minds. And, we will continue making the portraits and filming testimonies once flights to Gambia resume after the lockdown.

  • Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of Bintu Tunkara, daughter of murdered Gambian Lamin Tunkara, holding the only photo she has of him on her mothers cell phone ©Jason Florio
  • Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of Ya Mammie Ceesay whose son was murdered by the former regime of Yahya Jammeh ©Jason Florio
  • Stories Behind Doors, The Gambia, West Africa - the doorway to Mr. Chune's home. His 14 year old son was shot dead by Gambia security forces April 10th, 2000 © Helen Jones-Florio
  • Bintu was detained and raped by 3 masked security officers - Gambia victims and resisters portraits ©Jason Florio
  • Gambia Victims and Resisters of a Regime – ©Jason Florio, the Gambia

#StoriesBehindDoors

Current Location: June 2020 – easing lockdown in the UK

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Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.
Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.

#GambiaDoors: Doors and Storefronts of The Gambia, West Africa

#GambiaDoors: Doors and Storefronts of The Gambia, West Africa. ‘Fukajai’…secondhand clothes. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio

‘Fukajai’ – roughly translates as shake off the dust

#GambiaDoors

#GambiaDoors: Doors & Storefronts - The Gambia, West Africa. Mural's depicting the Mouride Brotherhood's, Lamp Faal and Baye Faal.
#GambiaDoors: Doors and Storefronts of The Gambia, West Africa. Mural’s depicting disciples, Lamp Faal and Baye Faal, of the Mouride Sufi Brotherhood, Banjul. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio



The Mouride Sufi brotherhood is a sect of Islam most prominent in Senegal and The Gambia with headquarters in the city of Touba, Senegal, which is a holy city for the order. Disciples are called Mourides, from the Arabic word murīd (“one who desires”), a term used generally in Sufism to designate a disciple of a spiritual guide.
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#GambiaDoors: Doors & Storefronts, The Gambia, West Africa - barber shop storefront showing hand-painted hairstyles. Image © Helen Jones-Florio
#GambiaDoors: Doors & Storefronts of The Gambia, West Africa: ‘The Standard Barber Shop’, Serrekunda. Image © Helen Jones-Florio


#GambiaDoors

#GambiaDoors: Doors & Storefronts - The Gambia, West Africa. Double-fronted shopfront in Banjul, the capital city of Gambia. Image © Helen Jones-Florio
‘Chemiss’ storefront, Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa.. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

#GambiaDoors

#StoriesBehindDoors – The doorway to Mbye Babou Chune’s home. Mr Chune’s son, Modou Lamin, was 14 years old when he was shot dead during a peaceful student demonstration in The Gambia, April 2000. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

StoriesBehindDoors: The Gambia – In remembrance of the victims, and survivors of a massacre: 10 April 2000 – Modou Lamin Chune, 14 years old, was one of 16 young people shot dead by Gambian paramilitary forces (over two days, 10th and 11th April) when they opened fire on a peaceful demonstration by students. At first, rubber bullets and tear gas was used. When the students refused to disperse, these were replaced by live bullets

#StoriesBehindDoors

“My son was amongst the children massacred by Yahya Jammeh’s security forces… he was trying to escape, running with the other students to save their lives, and he was shot dead as he reached the school gates” Mbye Babou Chune

Montage of doors and storefronts from The Gambia, West Africa, and the Mediterranean island of Malta. Images ©Helen Jones-Florio
#DisappearingMalta & #GambiaDoors montage – doors and storefronts from The Gambia, and a small Mediterranean island.. Images ©Helen Jones-Florio @doors_helenjonesflorio


Photographer, Helen Jones-Florio – #GambiaDoors / #StoriesBehindDoors – Bakau, The Gambia.
Image ©Jason Florio


More of my other place for the love of unique doors and storefronts – #DisappearingMalta

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Current Location: May 2020 – on lockdown in the UK

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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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Instagram @jasonflorio_photoprints: ‘Sky Over Texas’ – photography prints by Jason Florio | Available from helenjonesflorio.com gallery

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We’ve changed the names of a couple of our Instagram feeds

Instagram @doors.helenjonesflorio #DisappearingMalta #StoriesBehindDoors #GambiaDoors - the beauty in decaying vintage doors and facades
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Follow us for regular photography updates on Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints and Helen Jones-Florio’s doors and facades from Malta, The Gambia, and beyond…

Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio - wet plate collodion print portrait courtesy of Marcin Andrzejewski
Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio – portrait courtesy of Marcin Andrzejewski