The Witch Hunts of 2009 – The Gambia. TRRC Digest Edition 10

‘TRRC Digest Edition 10 is out! The 10th session focused on the witch-hunt campaign ordered by Yahya Jammeh against mostly elderly men and women accused of witchcraft in The Gambia. Read the testimonies here ANEKED (African Network Against Extrajudicial Killings & Enforced Disappearances)

The Witch Hunts of 2009, The Gambia. TRRC Digest  Edition 10. Dodou Sanyang stands beside the bed of his late mother, The Gambia Image © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
The Witch Hunts of 2009, The Gambia. TRRC Digest Edition 10. Dodou Sanyang stands beside the bed of his late mother. Image © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

“Green Boys and magicians came around the village, singing, drumming, and dancing, and targeted NRP (UDP) opposition party members” Doudou Sanyang

The Witch Hunts of 2009 – The Gambia. Dodou Sanyang, in the room of his recently deceased mother, Naa Joni Sonko. She was one of over a thousand elderly people abducted on the order of the former president, Yahya Jammeh. Groups of Jammeh’s paramilitary troops along with his youth brigade, The Green Boys, and ‘magicians’ from Guinea, went from village to village as part of a nationwide hunt for witches.

The alleged witches were held for up to five days in secret locations and made to drink ‘Kubehjaro’, a hallucinogenic substance, and then forced to confess to witchcraft. Some were also severely beaten, and robbed by their captors. Some died at the detention sites, and others like Sanyang’s mother suffered years of illness before dying. Many in Sanyang’s village believe the elderly there were not targeted for witchcraft, but because the village had been an opposition stronghold – Essau, Northbank Division, The Gambia.

The Witch Hunts of 2009, The Gambia – Portraits © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio, taken from the on-going ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ series
The Witch Hunts of 2009, The Gambia - Sankung Balajo, one of over one thousand elders abducted on the orders of then-President, Yahya Jammeh.. © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio   
The Witch Hunts of 2009, The Gambia – Sankung Balajo, one of over one thousand elders abducted on the orders of then-President, Yahya Jammeh.. © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio 

“I was kept for five days. When they forced me to take the medicine (‘Kubehjaro’ a hallucinogenic substance), I could no longer stand up… I fell down on the ground… ” Sankung Balajo

See more of the portraits, used in the past and present TRRC Digest Editions, taken from the ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ on-going multimedia series – a collaboration between Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Opening night of 'The Duty to Remember' exhibition at the National Centre for Arts & Culture, Banjul, The Gambia. A collaboration with ANEKED.  Portraits on display ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio. Exhibition Image ©Jason Florio
Opening night of ‘The Duty to Remember’ exhibition at the National Centre for Arts & Culture, Banjul, The Gambia. A collaboration with ANEKED. Portraits on display ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio. Exhibition Image ©Jason Florio

Current Location: April 2020 – on lockdown in the UK

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In isolation between a ‘Rock and a Hot Place’

In isolation between a ‘Rock and a Hot Place‘ – we arrived in the UK just over a month ago, for a short break from our assignments in The Gambia, West Africa. We had intended to head to the small island of Malta, which we have called our other home for the past five years. After this, we planned to return to The Gambia to continue our projects.

Malta: incoming flights suspended – March 21st, 2020

However, the days following our return to the UK Malta closed its airport, soon followed by The Gambia. So, we find ourselves grounded, literally, here in the UK at my mother’s house – waiting for the skies to open again. In the meantime, I watch her English country garden slowly break bud and bloom, and Helen as the light finds her in our roost above the barn – whilst, all the time wildly conscious of the struggle around us, the fight for life… Jason Florio

Our niece, who is isolating with her family, keeping her social distance, but echoing her uncle with her camera ©Jason Florio April 2020

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Jason’s Mum, who is self-isolating, wearing a mask outside and keeping her social distance (her dog. Space, is in the background) ©Jason Florio April 2020

In isolation between a ‘Rock and a Hot Place’

Help is at hand – volunteering to shop for residents who are self-isolating. Image ©Jason Florio


HJF – on one of our daily exercise walks ©Jason Florio April 2020

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In isolation between a ‘Rock and a Hot Place‘ – photographer, Jason Florio, with his mum’s dog, ‘Space’. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio, April 2020

Location: April 2020 – Currently, physical-distancing in the UK

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COVID 19 London Lockdown. Homelessness. Images ©Jason Florio

Tuesday 24th March, 2020: The first day of the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s lockdown to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In Central London the streets were abnormally quiet, it felt as if nearly all of society had been sieved away, and only the homeless were left on the almost deserted streets. London has an estimated 170,000 homeless.

Images © Jason Florio – available for license ReduxPictures

COVID 19 London lockdown. Homelessness - A woman an wearing a face mask walks past a group of homeless people, in a semi-deserted London street ©Jason Florio
COVID 19 London lockdown © Jason Florio
COVID 19 London lockdown. Homelessness-A lone man reads the newspaper in a deserted Trafalgar Square, London. Image © Jason Florio
COVID19 London Lockdown. Image © Jason Florio



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COVID 19 London lockdown. Homelessness - A lone homeless man walks across a deserted Trafalgar Square, London. Image ©Jason Florio
COVID19 London Lockdown. Image © Jason Florio


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COVID 19 London lockdown. Homelessness - a lone homeless man sits on the street, Central London. Image © Jason Florio
COVID 19 London lockdown. Image © Jason Florio

See more of Jason Florio’s documentary / film work on his website

March 2020 – Currently, physical-distancing in the UK

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(self) Isolation… images ©Jason Florio

(self) Isolation - image © Jason Florio - a lone woman sits in a bed looking at her phone by a window overlooking the sea, Cornwall, UK
(self) Isolation – image © Jason Florio, March 2020, UK
(self) Isolation - image © Jason Florio - a lone woman stretches in the early morning, looking out the window at the sea, Cornwall, UK
(self) Isolation ©Jason Florio, March 2020, UK

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(self) Isolation - image © Jason Florio - a lone beach hut, on the cliffside, overlooking the sea, Cornwall, UK
(self) Isolation – Image © Jason Florio, March 2020, UK

But if you could just see the beauty,

These things I could never describe,

These pleasures a wayward distraction,

This is my one lucky prize.

Isolation, isolation, isolation, isolation, isolation

Words: Curtis-Hooky-Sumner-Morris / Joy Division

(self) Isolation - image © Jason Florio - a lone woman looks out at the ocean from a cliff top, Cornwall, UK
(self) Isolation ©Jason Florio, March 2020, UK

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(self) Isolation - image © Jason Florio - a lone wild pony eats grass in a field, Cornwall, UK
(self) Isolation – image ©Jason Florio, March 2020, UK

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(self) Isolation - image © Jason Florio - a lone stone-shaped heart, on a clifftop, overlooking the sea, Cornwall, UK
(self) Isolation – image © Jason Florio. March 2020, UK
(self) Isolation - image © Jason Florio - a vase of flowers on the window ledge in an ancient country church, Cornwall, UK
(self) Isolation – image © Jason Florio, March 2020, UK
Isolation - images ©Jason Florio - an old graveyard, overlooking the sea, Cornwall, UK
(self) Isolation – image © Jason Florio, March 2020, UK
Isolation - images ©Jason Florio - man sits on the the top deck of a bus, overlooking the sea, Cornwall, UK
(self) Isolation – image © Jason Florio, March 2020, UK

Assignment queries and image licensing – Contact here

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@jasonflorio / @floriotravels  / @jasonflorio_photoprints / @doors_helenjonesflorio – Instagram

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