The gift of ‘Silafando’ to Gambian village chiefs, Image West Africa

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‘Silafando’ – presenting kola nuts to the village chief (the ‘Alkalo’), The Gambia, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio, 2009


‘All the village chiefs we met, very kindly permitted our raggle-taggle, road-weary, team to turn up, unannounced, and pitch our small camp, each evening.

To show our respect, as strangers, when approaching the village chief -the Alkalo – we used the age-old traditional protocol, called ‘silafando’ (which roughly translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey’). The gift of a handful of bitter kola nuts – the walnut-sized nuts play an important role, in the Gambian culture and traditional social life. The chief then shares the nuts with his most important village elders. They break open the nuts  and chew them, which are also valued for their pharmacological properties – they act as a natural stimulant and, apparently, an aphrodisiac. 

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Helen and the Short Walk team arrive into the village of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio, 2009


Once the gift is accepted, from that point on, everyone knew that we were there as guests of the Alkalo. This meant that we were to be treated with respect, for the duration of our stay. And, if any of the villagers were to disrespect us, then they would have to answer to the Alkalo, along with putting shame on their family‘ . An excerpt from ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘  by Helen Jones-Florio

HJF, Casamance, Senegal, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio


Related post: ‘Silafando’ – portraits of Gambian village chiefs, exhibited for the first time in The Gambia



Youtube: Directing Gambian chiefs and corralling kids! The photo exhibition is extended

We are delighted to announce that we have been asked to extend the original closing date, 30th April, 2015, of the ‘Silafando’ exhibition, at Gaya Art Café, here in The Gambia, until the middle of May. So, for those of you who missed it, then the exhibition is open for public viewing – with the portraits, inside and outside the venue – Monday-Saturday, 12 noon-late.

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Jason Florio photographs village chief – (Alkalo) Landing Jammeh – of Khalaji, The Gambian, West Africa – click here or on above images to watch footage – by Helen Jones-Florio, 2009


We then realised that the tree was the only real shade in the village – of Khalaji – and (something we should have known by this point) its where the whole village congregate, to sit and chew the fat, at the end of their working day. So, along they came, a steady stream of villagers, until our camp site was surrounded by very vociferous, curious kids, and adults alike. They brought wooden benches and stools, plastic chairs and, in one particular case, a women brought her sewing, whilst another two women sat and plaited each others hair. Our team was fast becoming the free entertainment, and amusement, well into the darkness of the evening – rather like starring in our very own live reality tv show!‘ ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km Africa odyssey‘ words © Helen Jones-Florio – read more about this particular shoot here.


'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio
Alkalo, Landing Jammeh – ‘Silafando’ The Gambia © Jason Florio


The Alkalos – Gambian village chiefs – have been around the world and now they are back where they belong, on exhibit in The Gambia, West Africa. And, it’s with huge thanks to the curators at Athens Photo Festival (APhF:15), in Greece, where they were last exhibited – the ‘Silafando’ body of work, in 2013 – and where Florio was invited to present his work, from the last fifteen years,  as a photojournalist.

‘Silafando’ – APhF:15, Athens, Greece. Image © Jason Florio


‘Silafando’ © Jason Florio – Exhibition at Gaya Art Café, The Gambia, West Africa


We hope you can make it down to Gaya’s (Bertil Harding Highway, next to Senegambia craft market). If not, then you can view Jason Florio’s ‘Silafando’ series on his website.

The Florios – Helen & Jason

A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush
A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush, 2009


Related posts: Exhibition opening night, Gaya Art Cafe

A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush






Meeting the Gambian village chiefs – the Alkalo’s – see their portraits on exhibition for the first time in The Gambia

Something for the weekend…

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Expedition leaders, Jason and Helen. on a red dusty road with Paddy, the donkey. From 930km African odyssey


If you are new to the story,  in short, in 2009, photographer, Jason Florio, myself, and three Gambian team mates, two donkeys and a cart to carry camera and camping equipment, walked around the small West African country of The Gambia – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey,  on what would be the first fully documented circumnavigation of the country, completely by foot.


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Alkalo (village chief), Dam Sallah, and the village elders come to welcome the team – Kerr Sat Maram, The Gambia. From 930km African Odyssey. Image © Jason Florio


On the way around, we were warmly welcomed by many, many different Alkalo’s – male and female – who Jason then photographed. The formal portraits  of the chiefs and elders became an award-winning body of work, entitled: ‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘.


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Team mates: Janneh, Jason, with Alkalo Dadi Bah, Helen, & Momadou, in the tiny village of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia. From 930km African Odyssey. Image by team mate, Samba Leigh


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Alkalo Jare Sowe, Jason Florio, & Samba Leigh, Falleng Koto, The Gambia. From 930km African Odyssey. Image © Helen Jones-Florio


'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio
Alkalo Jare Sowe, Felling Kotto, The Gambia – from ‘Silafando’ © Jason Florio


If you are in The Gambia, there is still a few more days to see the ‘Silafando‘ exhibition (until 30th April, 2015), at Gaya Art Cafe, Bertil Harding Highway (next door to Senegambia main craft market). And, to see and read more of the back story of the 930km walk, then please visit our ‘930km African Odyssey‘ blog.


Related Post: ‘Silafando’ exhibition opening

Press: Review of exhibition opening – ‘Silafando’ – portraits of village chiefs by Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

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Photographer, Jason Florio, and photography & expedition producer, Helen Jones-Florio, at the opening of ‘Silafando’ – photo © Anna Wedin, for


A big thank you to Anna Wedin, who came to review the opening of our ‘Silafando‘ exhibition, at Gaya Art Café, Gambia, a couple of weeks ago, for – Jason Florio’s award-winning portraits of Gambian village chiefs (‘alkalos’) and elders were taken whilst we were on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘, completely by foot, in 2009

Read Anna’s review on the site. If you would like to translate the article, try

The exhibition runs through April 30th, 2015. Click here for location details.


Related posts: Exhibition Opening / Silafando / Photo Exhibition – Silafando

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Jason Florio – Image © Helen Jones-Florio