‘How Natural Dyes Are Made From Nuts, Leaves and Roots In Gambia’ – a short film shot, and co-produced by Jason Florio
Natural dyes from kola nuts and indigo have been used to make tie-dye in Gambia for generations. But more and more artisans have been replacing these traditional ingredients with imported chemical dyes. Today, Musa Jaiteh is the last artisan in his town in Gambia still using only natural dyes and traditional techniques – Insider Business | Still Standing series
Huge thanks to Rheem Makhoul, Nikita Grant, Theresa Zhang at Insider Business; Sheikh Tijan Secka, Ismaila Badjan at STS Pictures, Magi Ralph at The African Fabric Shop for the introduction to Musa – and her vast expertise and knowledge on all things African textiles – and, the biggest thanks to Musa Jaiteh for inviting us into his home, in The Gambia, allowing us to share his very special artisanship and beautiful work for everyone to see. Respect.
See more of Jason Florio’s film work on his website
December 2012 – January 2013 – My wife, Helen Jones-Florio, and I co-led the first recorded source-to-sea expedition by canoe along the 1130km length of River Gambia, from its humble source in the remote highlands of Guinea, through Senegal and into The Gambia where it widens to nearly 14km and exits into the Atlantic Ocean. We teamed up with two old Gambian friends, Abdou Ndong a fisherman and Ebou Jarju a school teacher, as our river guide and translator.
River Gambia is one of the major arteries into West Africa from the Atlantic Ocean. First penetrated in 1455 by Portuguese explorers, fought over by the French and British, and traveled up by Scottish explorer Mungo Park on both his attempts to seek the course of the River Niger. Slave traders sailed their human cargo down to the estuary for the transatlantic slave trade, adventurers pushed far into the interior of what is modern-day Senegal in search of gold, and huge barges continue to course the navigable reaches to the old Gambian colonial era-towns to collect hauls of peanuts.
Fishermen still throw nets from precarious narrow pirogues throughout much of the course of the river, and Guinea-Bissau refugees scour the mangroves for oysters in the brackish tributaries. Economic migrants flock to the Senegal sections of the river, busily washing the gold- bearing river sand as they have done for hundreds of years. It was the British, who in 1889 ultimately took control of 338km of it from the Atlantic coast eastwards, thereby creating the smallest country on the continent of Africa, (what is now) The Republic of The Gambia.
Once we started researching for the expedition, we discovered that plans were afoot to create a hydroelectric dam on the river at the Guinea-Senegal border. Villages would be flooded, the natural seasonal rise and fall of the river would be choked – causing a potentially devastating effect on the environment and the people. The idea of making the journey became a matter of urgency; so as to create a modern day account of the communities that live along the banks of one of Africa’s last major free-flowing rivers, before irreparable damage was done.