Looking back over some of the marvelous work that our young Gambian students produced, during their Photos Tell Stories Photography Workshops, earlier this year. After running through theory in the classroom, Jason then sent the students out into the field. They came back with some very impressive work – considering the majority of them had never used a camera before – which we exhibited, to a packed gallery, at Alliance Française, here in The Gambia, in May.
This weekend we will be going back down to Kartong, near the border of Senegal, to carry on with our story about the turtle conservation project, which we started last weekend, where we released 20 turtles into the Atlantic Ocean – an wondrous experience. More on that soon…
Both of us have always been fascinated by the traditional Gambian ‘masquerades’ – after having seen many over the years, throughout the country and in neighboring Senegal – dynamic, wonderfully mysterious, and sometimes down right dark and scary!
Whether it be a circumcision ceremony, celebrating a successful harvest, chasing away evil spirits, enforcing village rules, or simply for entertainment, masquerades play a central and significant role in many parts of West African society.
Before we left The Gambia last month – a short hiatus to spend time with family – we began to work on the masquerade project…
We’re also working closely with the Gambia National Centre for Arts and Culture – to produce a series of masquerade portraits for an exhibition in the near future. There is an abundance of masquerades – from the ‘Cumpo‘, ‘Kankurang‘, ‘The Hunter‘, ‘Agomalah’, to the stilted ‘Monpara‘. We look forward to exploring these more fully, when we return to West Africa in the coming months – delving deep into the origins and traditions of each one we meet; to create a photographic anthropology of the traditional masquerade
On the opening night of the Photos Tell Stories exhibition, we were very fortunate to be introduced to highly accomplished Togolese artist, Amigoe Dieudonné . During further meetings, Amigoe – an articulate, charismatic man – began to tell us the compelling story of his life, since leaving his Togolese home and family at 19 years old, living as a disabled artist, in various countries in West Africa. And, how his travels have shaped the very distinctive art he produces today.
We began to film and photograph Amigoe – again, shortly before we left The Gambia – who invited us into to his home and studio, to fully share with us the rich and vibrant tapestry of his life. We look forward to continuing this story too, when we return.
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We would like to extend our thoughts to all those, in West Africa, who have been affected by the recent Ebola crisis, and we pray that it does not spread further.
We arrived in The Gambia, West Africa, early December, 2013, by invitation from the US Embassy, Banjul, to teach a series of photography workshop – ‘Photos Tell Stories: teaching photography – a visual language‘. Our aim was to show young Gambian students, between the ages of 13-20 years old, how to see their ‘home‘ – the villages and towns which they live – through the eye of a camera. And, more importantly, to show us – as guests on their home turf – how they viewed their environment and how they wanted it to be portrayed.
After a morning in the classroom, where Jason took them through the history of photography – showing the work of renowned international photographers, past and present – and various techniques, we gave them the cameras and sent them out, to photograph. Most of the students had never used a camera, other than perhaps snapshots with their phones.