“I do not care what you do with my photo or my testimony,” concluded Alagie Sonko after the meeting. It is the fact that you came to listen to me that did me the greatest good” Alagie Sonko, the Gambia – Le Monde Afrique / Romain Chanson
“What I learnt from the interviews with victims is the range of abuses and atrocities that happened here during the 22 years of Jammeh. I have been coming to The Gambia for 20 years and I heard about things happening in the past but I had no idea about the range of abuses, including the use of forced medication, people forced to take HIV treatments. The tourists that came here had no idea about what was going on. Even I as a journalist who been here many times had no idea about what was really going on The Gambia,” Jason told The Chronicle.
‘Portraits for Positive Change’ British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul – May 21st, 2019 With the kind support of the British High Commission
Today, 23rd May 2019, the ‘Portraits for Positive Change’ exhibition was donated, by the British High Commission, to the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), to be used as a tool for advocacy and awareness during their outreach programs around The Gambia. The aim of which is to create a dialogue within communities, to help sensitise people on the plight of the victims – emphasising the importance of victims to come forward and engage in the TRRC process.
“Coming to terms with the legacy of the recent past provides the Gambian people an opportunity to reconcile and regain the hope and optimism for the future they so deserve” Sharon Wardle – British High Commissioner to The Gambia
The truth shall set you free…
The next step… which the portraits have already embarked on, is to take the exhibition further, into the international arena. First stop: the portraits were chosen by LensCulture Portrait Awards, in April.
And, on May 27th-29th they will be digitally exhibited – on 10ftx10ft screens – at the Oslo Freedom Forum festival.
The Oslo Freedom Forum is a transformative annual conference where the world’s most engaging human rights advocates, artists, tech entrepreneurs, and world leaders meet to share their stories and brainstorm ways to expand freedom and unleash human potential across the globe.
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.
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.
“I was taken downstairs (everyone knows that this is where the bad things happen at the NIA -National Intelligence Agency). They covered my eyes with something, and I felt 3-4 people push behind me, and I felt an injection in my back – you know…like a big staple gun – and then I felt something enter my system…burning me inside. I was screaming, shouting, calling to Allah for help. Then they took me to the beating grounds…” Mr. Njie
Njie, a local taxi driver, was inadvertently caught up in a demonstration by the UDP opposition party on April 14th 2016 and arrested by the former president, Yahya Jammeh’s, security forces. Despite simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Njie was held, without charge for 3 months
“Oh my god, Mile 2, it is like hell…no dignity, they treat you like donkeys, animals, even the smallest of boys…no respect” Mr.Njie