In 2009 we walked 930km’s around The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa, completely by foot (‘bi tamala singalah’ – Mandinka language), with three local Gambian friends, two donkeys, and a cart – to carry our camera gear and camping equipment: ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘
Each evening, we would approach a village and ask the chief if we could camp there – using the traditional method of ‘Silafando’ – which roughly translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘ – of giving the bittersweet, caffeine-containing, kola nuts. Following this age-old protocol ensured that we were taken in, under the protection of the village chief – the ‘Alkalo’. Once we were accepted into the village by the alkalo – and his elders, with whom he shared the ‘Silafando’ – we would ask him (or her – there were 5 female chiefs in The Gambia at that time) if he would sit for a formal portrait. These are just a couple of what has since become an award-winning body of work by Jason Florio:
To view more from the series of portraits, please visit Florio’s website – floriophoto.com – or, if you find yourself over in Brooklyn, NY, before May 5th, 2013, pop into the Corridor Gallery and see them up close.
Thanks to Rush Art Philanthropic Foundation/Corridor Gallery curator, Charlotte Mouquin Vosnesenskiy, for an excellent job in putting the show up. Over three years later and the alkalo’s are still garnering so much attention. It’s an honour for us to have the work out there still. It’s with great thanks also to all the alkalo’s who graciously welcomed us into their villages and accommodated our request to sit for the portraits.
The Florios – H & Flo