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

__________

Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

 @jasonflorio / @floriotravels / @doors.helenjonesflorio / 

@jasonflorio.photographyprints – Instagram

Jason Florio – Vimeo / floriotravels – Vimeo

floriophotoNYC – Twitter

PhotoTellStories – FB

River Gambia Expedition – featured in Safari254

SAFARI254 – The source of the River Gambia, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry ©Jason Florio

My wife, Helen Jones-Florio, and I co-led the first recorded source-to-sea expedition along the length of River Gambia, from its humble source in the remote highlands of Guinea-Conakry, through Senegal and into The Gambia where it widens to nearly 14km and exits into the Atlantic Ocean. We teamed up with two old Gambian friends, Abdou Ndong a fisherman and Ebou Jarju a school teacher, as our river guide and translator… Jason Florio / Safari254.com

SAFARI254 – A team punt a raft carrying a water pump that will be used to irrigate banana plantations that flank the river banks in Senegal © Jason Florio

The expedition took two months to cover the 1044km from source-to-sea…

SAFARI254 Expedition team member Abdou Ndong keeps an eye out for hippos in Senegal.© Jason Florio

The River Gambia – source to sea map ©Jason Florio

Read the full feature – see more images – at Safari254.com 

We made it! The River Gambia Expedition team reach the Atlantic Ocean (on Jason’s birthday!), The Gambia, West Africa, Jan 21st, 2013

Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

March-April 2019 – Currently working on

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime‘ in The Gambia, West Africa

#Portraits4PositiveChange

floriophoto.com

@jasonflorioio / @floriotravels – Instagram

Jason Florio – Vimeo

floriophotoNYC – Twitter

Jason Florio/Photojournalist – FB


Economic Migrant Gold Miners, South Eastern Senegal, West Africa

Gold-miners2_tombronkoto_MG_3950-copy-3
© Jason Florio Economic Migrant Gold Miners, South Eastern Senegal, West Africa

Thursday 20th December 2012 – Paddling distance: 11.4km (total to-date: 83.65km) – ‘River Gambia Expedition1044km source-sea African odyssey

Even our tents and canoes, situated by the river over 2 miles away from the mine itself, were covered in a fine film of the pale pink, talc-like dust…

‘A relatively short day’s paddling on the River Gambia today, as we wanted to stop and visit another gold mine in South Eastern Senegal. This stretch of the river is dotted with artisanal gold mines – which draw thousands of migrant workers from all over West Africa: Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, and Senegal itself. All of them hoping to make their fortune. Whole families live in and around the mines, in makeshift villages (rather disconcertingly described as the ‘Wild West‘ of SE Senegal, during our pre-expedition research). All the mines we visited were understandably dusty, but this one, in particular, had an extremely fine, pink-hued, dust which got into absolutely everything. Even our tents, and canoes, situated by the river – over 2 miles away from the mine itself – were covered in a fine film of the pale pink, talc-like dust. But, at least we could pack up our tents and leave the next day, washing away the dust. Many of those people whose lives revolve around the gold mines, for months and years in some cases, aren’t so lucky, as they inhale toxic fumes from the mercury – used to separate the gold from the rock dust…’ Words by Helen Jones-Florio. Read more on the River Gambia Expedition blog.

FLO-AT-WORK-GOLDMINES
Jason Florio photographs the gold miners © Helen Jones-Florio

HJF_WITH-TOLLEH_GOLD-MINE
HJF with ‘Tolleh Kaafo’, S.E. Senegal gold mines © Jason Florio