The Gambia: Portraits of survivors of Yahya Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS ‘cure’ treatment ©Jason Florio

Fatou Jatta survivour of President Yahya Jammeh's HIV/AIDS 'cure' program - portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia
Fatou Jatta – survivor of Yahya Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS ‘cure’ program, The Gambia – portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange

“From the time I started the concoction, I got weaker and weaker, my condition got worse. After July, I went to the MRC – which had been my treatment centre – and tested. My CD4 count had dropped to 80 – a threat to me, anything can happen” Fatou Jatta, survivor Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS ‘cure’ program and Member of the Santa Yalla Support Society

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters

In 2007, then President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, announced that he could cure HIV/AIDS with his secret herbal concoction. Jammeh ‘invited’ (under his harsh dictatorship, many survivors say that they were coerced) Gambians living with HIV and AIDS into his Presidential Alternative Treatment Programme. He also ordered them to stop taking antiretroviral drugs, which in some cases proved fatal – as in the case of Lamin Moko Ceesay’s (pictured below) wife who died as a result of stopping her antiretroviral drugs on the orders of Jammeh, when she took part in his treatment program.

Also, without the consent of the patients, Jammeh’s administration of his herbal ‘cure’ was often televised to the nation.

Lamin Ceesay - took part in Yahya Jammeh AIDS/HIV herbal 'cure' trials, the Gambia - portrait ©Jason Florio
Lamin Moko Ceesay – took part in Yahya Jammeh AIDS/HIV herbal ‘cure’ trials, the Gambia – portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2019: AIDSFREEWOLD: The survivors filed complaints with The Gambia Medical and Dental Council against Dr. Tamsir Mbowe and Dr. Malick Njie, both of whom served at different points as Jammeh’s Minister of Health. Fatou Jatta, Ousman Sowe, and Lamin “Moko” Ceesay signed the complaint against Dr. Mbowe; Fatou Jatta filed the complaint against Dr. Njie. (Read the letters here.) The survivors are supported in their actions by AIDS-Free World, the Gambia-based Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), and Combeh Gaye of the Gambian law firm Antouman A.B. Gaye & Co.

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters

Ousman Sowe, survivour of President Yahya Jammeh's HIV/AIDS 'cure' program - portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia
‘Musa’, survivor of President Yahya Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS ‘cure’ program –
portrait ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange, The Gambia

#Portraits4PositiveChange

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ is a multi-media work-in-progress series – portraits and filmed testimonies by Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio. To date, the portraits have been exhibited at The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and at the British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul, and at the Truth, Reconciliation, Reparations Commission (TRRC). See a selection of the portraits on Jason Florio’s website floriophoto.com

Portraits for Positive Change - at the TRRC Gambia ©Jason Florio
‘Portraits for Positive Change’ at the TRRC – donated by the British High Commission, The Gambia ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.
Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.

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Looking back: A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush, 930km African Odyssey

Chief Jara Sowe and photographer, Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa ©Helen Jones-Florio 2009

A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush –

930km African Odyssey

Throughout November and December 2009 Expedition: The first-ever circumnavigation, completely by foot, of The Gambia, West Africa by award-winning photojournalist & filmmaker, Jason Florio, and photography producer, Helen Jones-Florio, three Gambians, two donkeys, and a cart!

Along the way, Jason shot what have become award-winning, internationally exhibited, portraits of the traditional village chiefs – the Alkalo – and elders

‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey

The following exert is from the expedition blog, ‘930km African odyssey’ – words by Helen Jones-Florio:

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’

Gambian village chief and his brother - portraits ©Jason Florio
L-R Samba Sowe (Alkalo’s brother)- farmer Alkalo Jare Sowe, Felling Koto The Gambia, West Africa ©Jason Florio

The story behind the black backdrop

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.

A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush –

930km African Odyssey

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.

On the Barra to Banjul ferry, a very tired Short Walk expedition team: Helen, Momadou, Samba, and Jason (and the donkeys, ‘Neil and Phadley). Photo by expedition team member, Janneh.
Helen films the team leaving Makasutu Culture Forest, where the Short Walk in the Gambian Bush Expedition began. Image © Jason Florio

Read/see more images about the expedition on our dedicated blog: 930kmAfricanOdyssey.

Related: River Gambia – 1044km source-sea African odyssey Expedition

Young men on a float taking a generator to a banana plantation on the River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio
Image © Jason Florio – young men taking a generator on a raft to a nearby banana plantation, River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa

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Interviewing sole survivor of a massacre, Ghanaian, Martin Kyere ©Jason Florio

Interviewing Martin Kyere, Ghana, Image © Jason Florio

Interviewing sole survivor of a massacre, Ghanaian, Martin Kyere. Martin was one of a group of over 50 West African migrants, who were endeavouring to reach Europe when the boat they boarded in Senegal veered off course and landed in The Gambia.

#Portraits4PositiveChange

According to recent witness testimonies by members of President Yahya Jammeh’s hit squad, ‘the Junglers’, at the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) in The Gambia, they revealed that the mass execution was ordered by Jammeh himself after the migrants were accused of being mercenaries trying to overthrow the government. 

Gambia – victims, and resisters’

The portrait of Martin was taken as part of an on-going series: ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ – whilst filming a documentary for an NGO in Ghana.

Photographer, Jason Florio, making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio
Photographer, Jason Florio, making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

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Spotlight on ‘The Gambia -Victims and Resisters’ Social Documentary Network

ZEKE

The Magazine of Global Documentary

ZEKE Awards -To view Jason Florio’s entry: The Gambia – victims, and resisters‘ click here

The jurors are now reviewing the entries and they will announce the winners by July 1, 2019. Wishing everyone who has entered the competition, the very best of luck. To view all the entries, click here

Social Documentary Network

visual stories exploring global themes

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#Portraits4PositiveChange

Gambia – Victims and resisters of a regime’, also known as ‘Portraits for Positive Change’, is a long-term, on-going body of work in collaboration with Helen Jones-Florio.


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