Despite turning up unannounced, at the end of a long day of walking, each village that we approached kindly permitted our raggle-taggle, road-weary team to pitch our small camp. This generous acceptance was mainly due to the fact that we used the age-old tradition and protocol for approaching the Alkalo’s – by offering them ‘Silafando’
In The Gambia, as in other regions in West Africa, when approaching a village as a stranger and/or traveler and you are asking something from them – such as shelter for the night – it is customary for you to give a ‘silafando’ (roughly translating as ‘a present on behalf of my journey’) of kola nuts, to the chief, which he then shares with the elders. Once accepted, you are warmly welcomed into the village and everyone knows that you are there as a guest of the Alkalo. This, in turn, guarantees that you are treated with respect as strangers in the village during your stay. And, if anyone were to disrespect that, then they would have the Alkalo to answer to and the shame that this disrespect brings on the family.
We met many Alkalo’s on our 6-week journey as we traversed first the length of South Bank, to the country’s furthest easterly point on the border of Senegal, then crossing the River Gambia (which was to form an integral part of a future expedition) we walked the length of the North Bank, before crossing back over the river on the Barra to Banjul ferry to make our way back to where we began the walk.
At the beginning of the 21st century, our world still didn’t get rid of the different evaluation between the genders. Our campaign’s purpose is to draw attention to this important issue of humanity and bring about the importance of change, with the collaboration of the world’s photo artists. We dedicate this work to UNICEF – Gender Equality 2019
“In August 2000 I was smuggled into a house in the suburbs of Herat, Afghanistan – the Taliban were in control of the city and had put strict laws in place banning education for girls – severe punishments were meted out on those who disobeyed them. Inside the house a group of girls sat in rows, each clutching a book as a volunteer teacher conducted the class. But despite the intense danger, the teacher and the girl’s parents knew the girls must have the opportunity for education, whatever the cost.
I often think of this moment – if these parents and teachers could put their lives on the line to operate a secret home school for girls, then we all must find the courage to speak out whenever and wherever we find Gender Equality under attack. The work along with other photographers will be exhibited in Budapest, Hungary in August in conjunction with UNICEF.” Jason Florio