Looking back: A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush, 930km African Odyssey

Chief Jara Sowe and photographer, Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa ©Helen Jones-Florio 2009

A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush –

930km African Odyssey

Throughout November and December 2009 Expedition: The first-ever circumnavigation, completely by foot, of The Gambia, West Africa by award-winning photojournalist & filmmaker, Jason Florio, and photography producer, Helen Jones-Florio, three Gambians, two donkeys, and a cart!

Along the way, Jason shot what have become award-winning, internationally exhibited, portraits of the traditional village chiefs – the Alkalo – and elders

‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey

The following exert is from the expedition blog, ‘930km African odyssey’ – words by Helen Jones-Florio:

Despite turning up unannounced, at the end of a long day of walking, each village that we approached kindly permitted our raggle-taggle, road-weary team to pitch our small camp. This generous acceptance was mainly due to the fact that we used the age-old tradition and protocol for approaching the Alkalo’s – by offering them ‘Silafando’

Gambian village chief and his brother - portraits ©Jason Florio
L-R Samba Sowe (Alkalo’s brother)- farmer Alkalo Jare Sowe, Felling Koto The Gambia, West Africa ©Jason Florio

The story behind the black backdrop

In The Gambia, as in other regions in West Africa, when approaching a village as a stranger and/or traveler and you are asking something from them – such as shelter for the night – it is customary for you to give a ‘silafando’ (roughly translating as ‘a present on behalf of my journey’) of kola nuts, to the chief, which he then shares with the elders.  Once accepted, you are warmly welcomed into the village and everyone knows that you are there as a guest of the Alkalo. This, in turn, guarantees that you are treated with respect as strangers in the village during your stay. And, if anyone were to disrespect that, then they would have the Alkalo to answer to and the shame that this disrespect brings on the family.

A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush –

930km African Odyssey

We met many Alkalo’s on our 6-week journey as we traversed first the length of South Bank, to the country’s furthest easterly point on the border of Senegal, then crossing the River Gambia (which was to form an integral part of a future expedition) we walked the length of the North Bank, before crossing back over the river on the Barra to Banjul ferry to make our way back to where we began the walk.

On the Barra to Banjul ferry, a very tired Short Walk expedition team: Helen, Momadou, Samba, and Jason (and the donkeys, ‘Neil and Phadley). Photo by expedition team member, Janneh.
Helen films the team leaving Makasutu Culture Forest, where the Short Walk in the Gambian Bush Expedition began. Image © Jason Florio

Read/see more images about the expedition on our dedicated blog: 930kmAfricanOdyssey.

Related: River Gambia – 1044km source-sea African odyssey Expedition

Young men on a float taking a generator to a banana plantation on the River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio
Image © Jason Florio – young men taking a generator on a raft to a nearby banana plantation, River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa

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‘A Blossom Pink World’ wins judges vote at Trans Pride Brighton, 2019

‘A Blossom Pink World’ short film by Jason Florio & Zane Dedlow

This was amazing news to wake up to on Saturday morning! We won the judges prize for the best non-fiction film – ‘A Blossom Pink World’ was screened on Friday 19th July 2019 at Trans Pride Brighton / My Genderation

A short film made by Jason Florio and Zane Dedlow for the NGO, Frontline AIDS

Activists share their experiences, hopes and aspirations as they challenge the legal framework that has led to transgender people not accessing the health services that they are entitled to, and need.

‘A Blossom Pink World’ short film by Jason Florio & Zane Dedlow


‘A Blossom Pink World’

Guyana Trans United’s ground-breaking campaign to repeal British colonial ‘Buggery Laws’ has found support from high-profile government officials. They share their experiences, hopes and aspirations as they challenge the legal framework that has led to Trans people not accessing the health services that they are entitled to, and need. Guyana Trans United received a grant from the Rapid Response Fund, which is managed by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation. FrontlineAids/Youtube

Still image from ‘A Blossom Pink World’ ©Jason Florio

Huge thank you, Trans Pride Brighton, My Genderation and FrontlineAids, and – most importantly – everyone at Guyana Trans United for sharing their world with us. And, last but not least, thanks to Helen Jones-Florio, for hours of transcribing the interviews! JF

Zane Dedlow & Jason Florio filming another short for FrontlineAids ‘A Prince in Cape Town

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Oyster Women of The Gambia, West Africa

Women, selling their oysters in Serrekunda Market, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio

On a recent photo assignment, with Jason Florio, we spent a day on a pirogue meandering through the network of bolongs – tributaries – of the River Gambia, following a group of oyster women as they harvested the mangroves for oysters (more on that assignment – and Jason’s photos – once the story has been published). It’s extremely labour-intensive work for such a meager return on sales. We paid 35Dalasi (about 56p / 70¢) for a small cupful at the market, today, where there is prolific competition from other oyster-vendors.

River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey

Being on the water, here in the Gambia, always reminds of our River Gambia Expedition – a 1044km source-sea journey, spanning over three countries. We came across a group of oyster women, who were harvesting, smoking, and shucking the oysters near to our campsite – readying them to sell at the local market.

Female migrants from Guinea Bissau work along the shores of a tributary of River Gambia, in The Gambia, collecting oysters that hang from the mangroves. © Jason Florio – River Gambia Expedition
River Gambia Expedition – ©Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio photographs the oyster women, as they harvest the mangroves, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

We wish you a happy weekend!

Helen Jones-Florio

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Currently working in the Gambia – with Jason Florio – May 2019

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChange

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