From 1994 -2017 Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia, West Africa as his own fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition with brutality. With Jammeh’s ouster and flight into exile, hundreds of Gambians now feel safe to come forward and speak freely about the crimes committed against them by his regime. This is a work in progress…
I was commissioned by the magazine (via my NYC agent, Redux Pictures). for an assignment in South Africa – ‘Movable Beast‘ – a story about the largest rhino relocation, by road, in history from South Africa to Botswana, working with the writer, Todd Pitock.
So often with magazine assignments, there are a limited number of images, out of hundreds shot, that make it to the pages of the magazine. Therefore, this Instagram takeover is a great opportunity to share some of my favourites over the next week, that did not make it to the printed page.
At the end of last year, we were commissioned by Amnesty International, West Africa, to make a documentary about the human rights defenders, and activists, who worked tirelessly, and often at their own risk, to stand up for those who had been abused and tortured – including working for the families of those who had ‘disappeared‘ – under the 22-year dictatorship of President Yahya Jammeh.
Having traveled, lived, and worked, over the last 20 years, on various assignments and personal projects, in the Gambia,Florio and I were always aware of its dark underbelly. We heard ‘the stories‘ of abuse, torture, disappearances, murder even. And, in a country which depends largely on tourism – the pull of beautiful sandy beaches, year-long sunshine, languorous boat trips on the River Gambia, technicolored sunsets – you’d be extremely hard pushed, if you only visited for a holiday, to have any notion at all of the graveness of what was going on, in the small West Africa country.
“For 22 years, we documented Gambians living in a climate of fear. Their rights were denied and many were subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, and widespread surveillance. But even in those dark days, there were people brave enough to stand up and challenge the abuse of power.”
To have all those stories, Jammeh’s reign of fear and terror, Florio and I had only heard whispers about over the years (until April 2016, when Gambians came to the streets to protest after the death in custody of activist Solo Sandeng), our Gambian friends only ever spoke sotto voce about what was going on, confirmed by those who had actually lived them was both incredibly disturbing and humbling. Now, with a new president, they have the freedom to speak out, have their voices heard.
We are truly thankful to every single person who shared their experiences, those who worked with us on the documentary, and Amnesty International for inviting us to make the documentary, in a place that we feel is a second home.