Stories Behind Doors, The Gambia

The gate to the compound of the late Omar Barrow, shot dead by Gambian security forces in 2009. Image © Helen Jones-Florio
The gate to the compound of the late Omar Barrow who was shot dead by Gambian security forces in 2009. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

Stories Behind Doors, The Gambia: Behind this gate is the family compound of ‘the late Omar Barrow’ (which, when asking for directions, is how the house is described by neighbours). On April 10, 2000 – Omar, a journalist, and International Community Red Cross volunteer, was shot by a uniformed member of Gambia’s security forces during student protests, as he was trying to help injured students at the Red Cross Headquarters. Tragically, he was pronounced dead a few hours later at Banjul’s Victoria Hospital. Omar was 28 years old. He is survived by his wife, Awa, and daughter, Fatou (who was only a few months old when her father was killed) – who we met and photographed for our on-going multi-media series, ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters

#StoriesBehindDoors

Photographer, Jason Florio, makes a portrait of Awa Barrow, holding a phone picture of her husband, Omar Barrow, who was shot dead by Gambian security forces, on April 10, 2000, during student protests in The Gambia. Omar's daughter, Fatou, looks on. She was only a few months old when her father was killed. His mother sits in the background. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio
Photographer, Jason Florio, makes a portrait of Awa Barrow, holding a phone picture of her husband, Omar Barrow, who was shot dead by Gambian security forces, on April 10, 2000, during student protests in The Gambia. Omar’s daughter, Fatou, looks on. She was only a few months old when her father was killed. His mother sits in the background. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio

#NeverAgainGambia

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Media: Le Monde Afrique – In the Gambia, the wounded faces of Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorship

In April 2000, Yusupha was shot in the back by Yahya Jammeh regime forces while attending a protest. He was left paralyzed. Image © Jason Florio
In April 2000, Yusupha was shot in the back by Yahya Jammeh regime forces while attending a protest. Image © Jason Florio

British photographers Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio met dozens of victims of the former president’s regime

“I do not care what you do with my photo or my testimony,” concluded Alagie Sonko after the meeting. It is the fact that you came to listen to me that did me the greatest good” Alagie Sonko, the Gambia – Le Monde Afrique / Romain Chanson

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Portraits for Positive Change forms part of an on-going body of work also known as ‘Gambia – Victims and resisters of a regime’


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‘Portraits for Positive Change’ the Gambia. The story so far…

It’s been an incredibly momentous, emotional – and active! – few months for us both, here in the Gambia. Since we arrived back on the West African coast in February we’ve held two photographic exhibitions of the portraits from our on-going body of work, ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters of a regime

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ Kafo Bayo – arrested on April 14th, 2016 during a peaceful demonstration for electoral reform © Jason Florio

For three days, I did not know who I was, or where I was…my clothes were like, you know, a butchers shirt…covered in blood… Kafo Bayo

Jason Florio, making #Portraits4PositiveChange – image ©Helen Jones-Florio


‘Portraits to Remember’
Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations – March 5th, 2019
With the kind support of the Goethe Institute

Kafo Bayo and some of the other victims in the exhibition at the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, the Gambia ©Jason Florio

Photo Exhibit Documents Jammeh’s Reign of Terror – The Chronicle

“What I learnt from the interviews with victims is the range of abuses and atrocities that happened here during the 22 years of Jammeh. I have been coming to The Gambia for 20 years and I heard about things happening in the past but I had no idea about the range of abuses, including the use of forced medication, people forced to take HIV treatments. The tourists that came here had no idea about what was going on. Even I as a journalist who been here many times had no idea about what was really going on The Gambia,” Jason told The Chronicle.

Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations – ‘Portraits to Remember’ Exhibition, the Gambia ©Jason Florio


‘Portraits for Positive Change’
British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul – May 21st, 2019
With the kind support of the British High Commission

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ – British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul, the Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio’s Photographic Stories of Gambia’s Human Rights Abuses – The Chronicle
‘Portraits for Positive Change’ – British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul, the Gambia © Jason Florio
Bintu Nyabally was detained for five days, beaten and raped by three masked security officers at the Gambia Police Intervention Unit HQ, after being arrested during a May 9th, 2016 rally, the Gambia  ©Jason Florio

#NeverAgainGambia

Today, 23rd May 2019, the ‘Portraits for Positive Change’ exhibition was donated, by the British High Commission, to the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), to be used as a tool for advocacy and awareness during their outreach programs around The Gambia. The aim of which is to create a dialogue within communities, to help sensitise people on the plight of the victims – emphasising the importance of victims to come forward and engage in the TRRC process.

British High Commissioner, Sharon Wardle, and the TRRC’s Vice Chairperson, Adelaide Sosseh Gaye, The Gambia © Jason Florio

“Coming to terms with the legacy of the recent past provides the Gambian people an opportunity to reconcile and regain the hope and optimism for the future they so deserve” Sharon Wardle – British High Commissioner to The Gambia

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ (#NeverAgain) – exhibition handover day at the TRRC, The Gambia © Jason Florio

The truth shall set you free…

The next step… which the portraits have already embarked on, is to take the exhibition further, into the international arena. First stop: the portraits were chosen by LensCulture Portrait Awards, in April.

And, on May 27th-29th they will be digitally exhibited – on 10ftx10ft screens – at the Oslo Freedom Forum festival.

The Oslo Freedom Forum is a transformative annual conference where the world’s most engaging human rights advocates, artists, tech entrepreneurs, and world leaders meet to share their stories and brainstorm ways to expand freedom and unleash human potential across the globe.

Now, where to next… watch this space.

Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ exhibition handover to the TRRC, in the Gambia. L-R: Helen Jones-Florio, Essa Jallow, Communications Specialist TRRC, Jason Florio

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Currently working in the Gambia – May 2019

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChange

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Gambia Photography Exhibition opening night: ‘Portraits to Remember’ -victims, and resisters

Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow – executive secretary of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), The Gambia. Image © Jason Florio

March 5th, 2019 – opening night of ‘Portraits to Remember’ at the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, the Gambia.

Jason Florio’s portraits, featured in the exhibition, are part of an on-going body of work which began over two years ago when he photographed Gambians who had exiled themselves, in fear of their lives, from the brutal regime of former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh.

Victim of rape and beatings by Gambian security forces, The Gambia - portrait by Jason Florio
Bintu was detained for five days, beaten and raped by three masked security officers at the Gambia Police Intervention Unit (PIU) HQ, after being arrested during a May 9th 2016 rally to demand the release of illegally detained protesters from previous rallies held on April 15th/16th, 2016. When asked if she would prefer that we keep her identity anonymous her adamant reply was “No, this was done to me, and I want justice…these men should be punished” From the series ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime‘ ©Jason Florio

‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime’

Oumie Jagne was shot twice in the arm by Gambian security forces during a peacful protests by students on April 10th 2000 © Jason Florio Gambia
Oumie Jagne was shot twice in the arm by Gambian security forces during a peacful protests by students on April 10th 2000 © Jason Florio

Oumie Jagne was shot twice in the arm by former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s security forces after she was caught up in student protests in April 10/11 2000. She was at her small shop when the shooting of unarmed students began and attempted to help a young girl who had been shot in the foot. While pulling the girl to safety, Oumie was fired upon and suffered life-changing injuries, almost severing her left arm. She is one of hundreds of victims registered at the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations.

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Opening night photography exhibition – portraits by Jason Florio. Image ©Jason Florio
Kafo Bayo (pictured below, at the exhibition opening night, seated below his portrait) was part of the April 14th, 2016 peaceful protest lead by Solo Sandeng for electoral reform. Bayo along with a number of other demonstrators was held for eight months subjected to torture and abuse by President Jammeh’s security forces, including being bound face down on a table and beaten by masked men Former seaman, masoner and political activist Kafo Bayo was arrested, tortured and jailed at Mile 2 prison after being arrested during the April 14th 2016 protests for electoral reform in the Gambia. From the series ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime‘  © Jason Florio

 ‘Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime’

From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia, West Africa, as his own personal fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition, with brutality.

His personal hit squad and intelligence agency carried out tortures, and assassinations with impunity – journalists were gunned down and disappeared, ministers were jailed, students shot in cold blood, and even his own brother and sister were murdered on his orders.

Journalist wearing a t-shirt with the face of assassinated journalist and co-founder of The Point newspaper Deyda Hydara. Hydara was an advocate of press freedom and a fierce critic of the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who was openly hostile to Gambian journalists and the media. Hydara was gunned down by assailants in his car as he was returning from work in 2004. From the series ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime‘  ©Jason Florio
Helen Jones-Florio talks with representatives of TRIAL International at the exhibition opening night, about her work on the portrait project with Jason. Image © Jason Florio.

With Jammeh’s 2016 election defeat, he went into exile after a standoff with regional forces, and the victims of his regime started to come forward.

So far, almost 1000 victims and their families have registered with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations to share their stories and help build international support to bring Jammeh to justice

Opening night photography exhibition: Three of the subjects of – Jason Florio’s portraits. Image ©Jason Florio
For three days I did not know who I was…where I was. My clothes, they looked like, you know, like a butchers… (covered in blood) Kafo Bayo
Left: Photographer, Jason Florio, with some of the victims and resister who are portrayed in his photography on exhibit. Image © Helen Jones-Florio.
Ya Mammie Ceesay stands next to Jason Florio’s portrait of her. Image © Jason Florio.

Ya Mammie Ceesay, mother of disappeared Gambian-American businessman Alhaji Mamut Ceesay. Alhaji returned to the Gambia in 2013 with his friend Ebou Jobe to set up a business, but they were allegedly robbed of their money by National Intelligence Agency heads, who later told President Jammeh the businessmen were in the Gambia to overthrow his regime. The two were then allegedly murdered on Jammeh’s command.

Sharon Wardle, the British High Commissioner to The Gambia, with Ayeshah Jammeh (also one of the subjects of Jason Florio’s portraits of victims and resisters of a regime), one of the founder of the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations. Image ©Jason Florio.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words – compelling images & personal accounts at the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations – “Portraits to Remember” exhibition. Sharon Wardle, British High Commissioner to The Gambia

To see more from Jason Florio’s series, please visit the website ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime‘, a work-in-progress with Helen Jones-Florio.

 

Jason Florio’s work is towards under-reported stories about people living on the margins of society and human rights. His work has been recognised with a number of awards, including The Magnum Photography Award 2017 for his work on migration. He was the first recipient of the Aperture Foundation grant to produce Aperture’s first ever assigned story, ‘This is Libya’. His work is held in a number of public and private collections and has been presented in solo and joint exhibitions in USA, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

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2019 – Currently working on

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChange

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Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio, standing in front of the banner for the exhibition, outside the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, the Gambia. Image by Buba Bah.