The art of walking, and the people you meet along the way…

 

‘Dawn over Kalaji Bridge’ © Jason Florio – from ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African Odyssey‘
‘Dawn over Kalaji Bridge’ – Helen Jones-Florio and the team © Jason Florio – from ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African Odyssey

 

Wherever we are in the world, we walk, a lot, Florio and myself. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the only ways to truly discover a place – and the people who live there. One time, in 2009, we decided to walk around the small West African country of The Gambia. A mere 930km, with three Gambian friends, two donkeys (‘Neil’ & ‘Paddy’.), and a cart to carry our camping and photography equipment. As one does.

Along the way, we met many people and photographed quite a few of them. Amongst them, around 43 village chiefs and elders, the photos of which are now award-winning portraits, ‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey

‘Silafando’ The Gambia  © Jason Florio

 

Another time, we took it upon ourselves to take a stroll along the coastline of The Gambia – a much shorter walk of around 80km. Again, we met and made friends with many people along the way.

Our constant companions, during our walk around Jinack Island, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Our constant companions, during our walk around Jinack Island, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Making friends, Jinack Island, the Gambia © Jason Florio
Making friends, Jinack Island, the Gambia © Jason Florio

 

Historian and local fisherman, Modou Sonko, Jinack Island, Gambia-image © Jason Florio
Historian and local fisherman, Modou Sonko, Jinack Island, Gambia-image © Jason Florio

 

And, our walks in certain places always seem to attract a good deal of attention

'Any chance of a bit of privacy?' Camping in a the village chiefs compound comes at a price ©Jason Florio
‘Any chance of a bit of privacy around here?’ Camping in the village chiefs compound comes at a price ©Jason Florio
Image: ©Jason Florio-2009 Gambian boy on his horse & farmer, on his bicycle, near the town of Basse, The Gambia, West Africa
Gambian boy on his horse & farmer, on his bicycle, near the town of Basse, The Gambia, West Africa Image: ©Jason Florio-2009
For some reason, we seem to attract dogs, wherever we go! Jason Florio and ‘Seven’ (from Footsteps Eco Lodge) talking to the cockle collectors, Gambia – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Of late, we’ve taken to meandering – going off-piste whenever possible – discovering the clifftops, valleys, and crevices of Malta.

Graffiti - President Trump and broken wall, Malta ©Jason Florio
Graffiti – President Trump, Malta ©Jason Florio

 

And, just when you think that you’ve seen all it has to offer, the small island in the middle of the Mediterranean (sandwiched somewhere between Sicily and the North African coast) never fails to reveal something more of itself.

Scenes from Malta - photography by Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio
Scenes from Malta – photography by Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio/Instagram

 

Victoria Lines, with Jason Florio
Walking the Victoria Lines, with Jason Florio – image © Helen Jones-Florio

Are we in Texas?!

Are we in Texas? Wind turbine, Malta © Helen Jones-Florio
Are we in Texas? Wind turbine, Malta © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Valletta, through a window © Jason Florio, Malta
Valletta, through a window © Jason Florio, Malta
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These boots, and Birkenstocks, are made for walking
These boots, and Birkenstocks, are made for walking

Home: Donating the Gambian village chiefs exhibition to the National Centre for Arts & Culture

The handing over of the Gambian village chiefs - the Alkalo's - to Hassoum Ceesay, of the National Centre for Arts and Culture, The Gambia, West Africa
L-R: Jason Florio, Hassoum Ceesay (NCAC), Helen Jones-Florio (‘White Tip’ dog) – the handing over of the Gambian village chiefs – the Alkalo’s – to Hassoum Ceesay, of the National Centre for Arts and Culture, The Gambia, West Africa

 

What goes around: On our most recent trip down to The Gambia, West Africa, we were excited to be able to donate Jason Florio’s award-winning portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders, ‘Silafando: a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘ to the National Centre for Arts & Culture, in The Gambia.

In April last year, we exhibited the portraits in The Gambia (with huge thanks to the organizers of the Athens Photo Festival, where Florio was invited to exhibit this series, in 2013, for shipping the prints all the way from Greece to West Africa!), which were taken during our 930km walk around one of Africa’s smallest mainland countries, in 2009.

 

Silafando exhibition, Gaya, The Gambia
Opening Night at Gaya Arts Café: Lamin, Abdou & Ebou (2nd & 3rd from left – who were our River Gambia Expedition team mates), Helen, Florio, Sarjo (Abdou’s daughter), and Samba Leigh (who was on the 930km walk) – Gaya Art Cafe exhibition opening

 

Packing the Prints
‘Lion’ dog oversees the packing of the prints, with Florio & Hassoum. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

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The packing is complete and approved (by ‘Lion’) . Image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

 

Handshake and thanks, Florio & Hassoum
Florio and Hassoum shake hands. The village chief exhibition on route to the National Centre for Arts & Culture, in Banjul, The Gambia. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

In the coming months, once we hear back from Hassoum, Baba Ceesay, and all at the NCAC, we’ll be posting more news as to where the portraits will eventually be housed and exhibited, in their permenant collection, in The Gambia next.

Helen Jones-Florio

“I am Amigoe Dieudonné – Artist Painter” West Africa

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VIMEO: Filmed & produced by Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio ©Jason Florio/Florio Studio. Click here to view

 

 

The above short video portrait of Amigoe was shot in The Gambia. He has travelled for over fifteen years around West Africa in his wheelchair, which is by no means an easy feat – as Florio and I witnessed for ourselves, whilst following him around, filming, in Gambia – especially when he only has the use of one arm, having been paralyzed in his legs and left arm since he was a young boy. Amigoe’s determined travels saw him stopping along the way to create extensive bodies of work (he told us that in one place he lived outside, in a park for months on end, painting beneath the shade of a big tree) which he exhibits and sells wherever possible to be able to continue his odyssey.

We first met Amigoe at the opening night of our Photos Tell Stories – ‘The Gambia by Gambians‘ – photography exhibition, at the Alliance Française in Banjul. He asked us if we would shoot the short bio, to enable him to approach potential clients and galleries for exhibitions.

 

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Amigoe at work in his house in The Gambia, with Jason Florio © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Last year, true to his independent and ever-inquisitive nature of the past fifteen years, Amigoe decided to make the arduous overland journey to Bamako, Mali, to see if he could expand his artistic career. He is now back in his homeland of Togo, where he returned to for the first time in many, many years to apply for a new passport – ever hopeful to fulfill his dream of being invited to Europe or the US to exhibit his work.

 

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Amigoe working on a new painting for an exhibition in The Gambia  ©Helen Jones-Florio
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Florio, Amigoe, and fellow artists, at his former home in Cape Point, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
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Amigoe surrounded by his paintings, preparing for a forthcoming exhibition at the Alliance Francaise, in Banjul, The Gambia ©Jason Florio

 

As always, we wish Amigoe – the artist painter – all success in his continuing odyssey.

HJF

HJF_ JF_stefan
Florio and Helen – a salon print sale, at home in NYC © Stefan Falke

It’s a Dog’s Life, West Africa

Searching for images on my hard drive back-up, recently, I began to see a pattern – dogs feature prominently, in our various journeys and travels.

DOGS AND FARMERS KEDOUGOU
Farmers with their dogs, Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio, River Gambia Expedition

 

DOGS AND KIDS
Kids and Dogs, Djinji, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio – River Gambia Expedition

 

DOG RIVER GAMBIA KEDOUGOU
The guardian of the River Gambia dog, Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio River Gambia Expedition

 

DOG & DONKEY BANSANG
The donkey loving dog (or the dog loving donkey?), Bansang, The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

GOATS AND DOG STANDOFF
‘You are outnumbered, pooch!’ – dog and goat standoff, Kedougou, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio chatting with a local with beach dogs, Bijilo.
One of our guides on our walk along the coastline of The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

 

And, the dogs who have a piece of my heart – The Gang of Seven:

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‘Chase me, chase me!’ Wolfie and White Tip, Cape Point, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio
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Beware the Crocodiles! These dogs are fearless! Wolfie, Rascal, (Noisey) Nelly, and Kalu (the others are in there somewhere!) – Cape Point, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

 

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King of the Pack: Lion, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio cc
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Kalu, the newest edition to the ‘Pack of 7’ (after defecting from the Indian restaurant across the street) © Helen Jones-Florio
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Me with my sentinals Lion, Susie (white dog), and Nelly, Cape Point, The Gambia © Jason Florio/Instagram

 

Lest we forget… the inimitable, Mr P (a.k.a Poet, Poe, Poetta, the P-sta, P-Diddly…), the dog star of Portobello Road, London. We rescued him when he was two or three years old, and he graced us with his serene presence until he reached the grand old age of 17 or 18.

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R.I.P. Mr P, June 7th 2011. Gone, but never ever forgotten