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

Something for the weekend…

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.52.51 AM
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.


Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.50.47 AM
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‘.


Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.53.25 AM
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


Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.59.21 AM
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

Photo exhibition: ‘Silafando’ award-winning portraits of Gambian chiefs and elders by Jason Florio


Gaya1_exhibit poster April 3rd 2015_ small

Gaya Art Café, The Gambia, West Africa – opening Friday 3rd April, 2015, 3-6pm. Everyone is welcome.

Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘ – award-winning portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders, by Jason Florio, taken whilst on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey‘, with Helen Jones-Florio, Samba Leigh, Ablie Janneh, and Momadou Cham.

Helen films the departure from Makasutu – the beginning of a 930km walk. Image © Jason Florio


In 2009 we turned left at the gate, from Makasutu Culture Forest, to embark on the first ever circumnavigation of The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa, completely by foot, with two donkeys – Neil & Paddy – (courtesy of The Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust) and a cart, to carry our camping and camera equipment.

Florio dreams of cattle! Chamois Bunda village, The Gambia, West Africa – image © Helen Jones-Florio


At the end of each day, we presented ‘silafando’ (the traditional gift giving of kola nuts) to the village chief – the alkalo – and asked permission to pitch our campsite for the night, along with a request to take a formal portrait of the chief and, at times, the village elders.

H & donkey
Helen, ‘Paddy’, and Samba Leigh (Ablie Janneh in the background) – on the road. Image © Jason Florio


‘A New York dinner party isn’t the place to open your mouth and not follow through – no matter how much Brooklyn Lager you’ve drunk. Yet, after a fellow guest told my partner, Helen, and I how he had walked 500 miles across Europe on the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, we declared that we’d been contemplating a journey for some time and a long walk sounded like just the thing… ‘ read the full story here:  You People Cannot Walk, You Only Move in Cars‘ – The Independent .

‘Silafando’ is an award-winning body of work, which has been published and exhibited around the world and now, for the first time, we have been given the opportunity to do something we have dreamed of doing, since we finished the walk, and that is to exhibit them here in The Gambia (we are indebted to Athens Photo Festival, APhF:15, for shipping the prints to West Africa).

'Silafando' The Gambia © Jason Florio
‘Silafando’ – Alkalo Landing Jammeh, Kalaji village (click link to view Youtube video of Jason taking the portrait of the chief), The Gambia © Jason Florio


At last, the chiefs are coming home – thanks to Gaya Art Café and Gregor Gorman.

We hope you can make it.

The Florios – Helen & Jason

Flo, H & Mr Bah Screen Shot 2012-05-15 at 10.09.54 AM
Jason Florio, Mr Bah – the marabout – and Helen Jones-Florio, Tuba Dabbo village, The Gambia


Related blog:930km African Odyssey’  – images and stories from the journey.