‘Portraits for Positive Change’ the Gambia. The story so far…

It’s been an incredibly momentous, emotional – and active! – few months for us both, here in the Gambia. Since we arrived back on the West African coast in February we’ve held two photographic exhibitions of the portraits from our on-going body of work, ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters of a regime

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ Kafo Bayo – arrested on April 14th, 2016 during a peaceful demonstration for electoral reform © Jason Florio

For three days, I did not know who I was, or where I was…my clothes were like, you know, a butchers shirt…covered in blood… Kafo Bayo

Jason Florio, making #Portraits4PositiveChange – image ©Helen Jones-Florio


‘Portraits to Remember’
Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations – March 5th, 2019
With the kind support of the Goethe Institute

Kafo Bayo and some of the other victims in the exhibition at the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, the Gambia ©Jason Florio

Photo Exhibit Documents Jammeh’s Reign of Terror – The Chronicle

“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.

Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations – ‘Portraits to Remember’ Exhibition, the Gambia ©Jason Florio


‘Portraits for Positive Change’
British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul – May 21st, 2019
With the kind support of the British High Commission

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ – British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul, the Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio’s Photographic Stories of Gambia’s Human Rights Abuses – The Chronicle
‘Portraits for Positive Change’ – British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul, the Gambia © Jason Florio
Bintu Nyabally was detained for five days, beaten and raped by three masked security officers at the Gambia Police Intervention Unit HQ, after being arrested during a May 9th, 2016 rally, the Gambia  ©Jason Florio

#NeverAgainGambia

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.

British High Commissioner, Sharon Wardle, and the TRRC’s Vice Chairperson, Adelaide Sosseh Gaye, The Gambia © Jason Florio

“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

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ (#NeverAgain) – exhibition handover day at the TRRC, The Gambia © Jason Florio

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.

Now, where to next… watch this space.

Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ exhibition handover to the TRRC, in the Gambia. L-R: Helen Jones-Florio, Essa Jallow, Communications Specialist TRRC, Jason Florio

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Currently working in the Gambia – May 2019

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

@doors_facades_florio / @jasonflorioio / @floriotravels – Instagram

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Portraits for Positive Change – The Gambia. Jason Florio / Helen Jones-Florio

Portraits for Positive Change exhibition booklet – front cover © Jason Florio

A sneak preview of the front cover of our next exhibition booklet Portraits for Positive Change‘. All images are taken from an on-going body of work, here in the Gambia, West Africa

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters of a regime

The booklet is to accompany the portraits – and video – of our second exhibition of this work, in the Gambia. More news about the exhibition, coming soon… Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Mr.Njie – in his taxi which was confiscated by the NIA for many months ©Jason Florio

“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

#GambiaHasDecided

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

#StoriesBehindDoors ©Helen Jones-Florio – The doorway to Mr.Njie’s home
Print samples for the new exhibition in the Gambia ©Jason Florio/Instagram

Portraits ©Jason Florio / Text ©Helen Jones-Florio

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

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Currently working in the Gambia – May 2019

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

floriophoto.com

@doors_facades_florio / @jasonflorioio / @floriotravels – Instagram

Jason Florio – Vimeo / floriotravels – Vimeo

floriophotoNYC – Twitter

PhotoTellStories – FB

Stories Behind Doors, the Gambia

#StoriesBehindDoors – Yundum Army Barracks, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio – Instagram @doors_facades_florio

Well come to No.4, Yundum Army Barracks, The Gambia – this door, to a Gambian soldiers quarters, overlooks the site on the camp where the bodies of seven murdered soldiers were exhumed. The soldiers were murdered by soldiers loyal to the former president, Yahya Jammeh, for being allegedly part of a counter-coup in November 1994. Witnesses say eleven soldiers were buried at the barracks, so far only seven have been found. Along with the bone fragments, electrical cables were also found that were used to bind the victims’ hands. The only clothing found were underwear, corroborating witness testimonies that the men were stripped almost naked before being shot.

The exhumation findings of 7 murdered soldiers at Yundum Barrack, the Gambia. Image © Jason Florio / See more on Instagram

#StoriesBehindDoors

The families of the murdered Gambian soldiers gather next to the exhumation site at Yundum Army Barrack, the Gambia, along with the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commissioners (TRRC). Image © Jason Florio – see more on Instagram

Currently working in the Gambia – April-May 2019

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

floriophoto.com

@doors_facades_florio / @jasonflorioio / @floriotravels – Instagram

Jason Florio – Vimeo

floriophotoNYC – Twitter

PhotoTellStories – FB

Stories Behind Doors -Mr. Chune’s 14-year-old son was shot dead by Gambian security forces, April 2000

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
#StoriesBehindDoors, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

11 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, they used rubber bullets and tear gas. When the students refused to disperse, live bullets were used.

#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

Gambian, Mbye Babou Chune gives his testimony, on camera, about the murder of his 14-year-old-son © Helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia, West Africa.
Mbye Babou Chune talks about the murder of his 14-year-old-son © Helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

“Modou was a brilliant student – the saddest day of my families life…innocent children killed by state guard/paramilitary officers…using live bullets and AK47’s. There was no mistake, it was their intention to kill” Mbye Babou Chune


The protest took place after a 19-year-old secondary school student, Ebrima Barry, who after insulting one of his teachers, was tortured and murdered by firefighters (they, and not the police, who were called to remove the student from the classroom). Along with beating him, the firefighters poured cement in Ebrima’s mouth and forced him to swallow it. They later allowed him to go home but, tragically, Ebrima died the next day as a result of his injuries.

Around the same time, a 13-year-old girl – ‘Binta’ – who was attending a school sports day at the Independence Stadium, was allegedly raped by a uniformed paramilitary officer. A medical examination later confirmed that Binta had been raped. After the two incidents, the Gambia Students Union (GAMSU) requested a permit to hold a public protest, as was their constitutional right. Their request was denied and GAMSU called on its members to take part in a peaceful march from the Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI), towards the capital city of Banjul, and Jammeh’s seat of power in the State House. Before the march even began, the police opened fire on the crowd, outside the GTTI.

#Portraits4positivechange

In April 2000, Yusupha was shot in the back by Yahya Jammeh regime forces while attending a protest. He was left paralyzed. Image © Jason Florio
In April 2000, Yusupha was shot in the back by Yahya Jammeh regime forces while attending a protest. Image © Jason Florio

I was not a coward, but Jammeh does not sympathise…if I put pressure on the case (to get justice for his son, and the others who were murdered and injured), I feared I would be ‘eliminated’. My phone was already being tapped by the NIA. This was not fair to the rest of my family…” Mbye Babou Chune


Despite the number of people killed, and many more severely injured – some left paralyzed, for life – then president, Yahya Jammeh’s government suppressed any investigation. Many of the victims’ families were allegedly threatened by the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA), preventing them from coming forward to make a case. Jammeh’s brutal dictatorship latest 22 years – 1994-2017 (although he was voted out in December 2016, he refused to step down, until he was sent into exile in January 2017).

#GambiaHasDecided

Follow the blog for further updates on our on-going work in the Gambia, and other photography assignments

Helen Jones-Florio

PhotosTellStories

See portraits by Jason Florio, from our on-going series:

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters of a regime



Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

floriophoto.com

@doors_facades_florio / @jasonflorioio / @floriotravels – Instagram

Jason Florio – Vimeo

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PhotoTellStories – FB