The ever curious kids of the Fouta Djallon Highlands – ‘Look, look! I am in the camera!’

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Helen – with her ever-present entourage © Jason Florio

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Helen – she is in there somewhere! © Jason Florio

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‘Can I see? Can I see?’ ! Florio has a instant audience © Helen Jones-Florio

Random photos of the day: November 2013 – ‘Look, look! I am in the camera!’ Habi squealed, as she looked at the screen on the camera. entertaining the kids in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition-1000km source-sea African odyssey’

For an update about our River Gambia journey (as of today-6/11/2013) please check out our recent blog post here

Photography – Jason Florio: Village Imam, Hore Dimma, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry

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© Jason Florio

Random photo of the day: The imam of Horé Dimma village, Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry © Jason Florio

Excerpt from an earlier post: ‘The next day, we were woken at 5.00am, by the ‘call to prayer’ as the muezzin’s voice echoed loudly over the crackling PA system. The ensuing prayers went on, loudly, for a very long time. One night, during our stay in the village, the muezzin started at 2am?! Was there was some kind of emergency in the village? Did we need to get up and rush to the mosque or something? During our travels in Muslim countries, neither of us had ever heard the call to prayer at 2am. The next day, when we asked what it was all about, Saif (our Guinea guide from Galissa Voyage Trekking) said, in his strong French accent, “they (the muezzin) did not check their watch”. Ebou added “they were fooled by the full moon” ?!River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey

To see Jason Florio’s new series of images, taken whilst on the journey, please visit his website: floriophoto.com  ‘River Gambia’

Photographer, Jason Florio – ‘Yousef’ images from the River Gambia

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Yousef – Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio

Jason Florio  ‘River Gambia’

River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey

PRESS: AfriTorial – ‘Where on god’s green earth is Makasutu?’

We just happened across this article, on a website called ‘AfriTorial’ (worth checking out, by the way) – Jason Florio’s award-winning ‘Makasutu – mecca in the forest series of large format series of B&W portraits, which he took over 12 years of travelling to The Gambia, West Africa

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A group of young Gambian boys gather on the banks of the River Gambia to bathe at the end of a male circumcision (‘coming of age’) ceremony Kombo Central, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

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L-R:
Ismaila Denba – young Gambian boat captain blowing cigarette smoke from his nose
Ensa – young Gambian, guide, holding cow head (slaughtered for ‘coming of age’ celebrations)
Myork village, The Gambia, West Africa
Ensa: In the permanent collection of The Haggerty Museum of Art (Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA) © Jason Florio

You can see the whole series on Florio’s website: ‘Makasutu – meccas in the forest’

and there’s the book: ‘Makasutu-mecca in the forest’

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Photographer-Jason Florio: brand new series of images from the River Gambia Expedition…a taster

More to come very shortly…

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Boys playing on the banks of the River Gambia, Senegal, W Africa © Jason Florio

Florio is updating his website as I write this…we’re reliving the journey, over and over, each day – looking through hundreds of images and updating this blog. Back here, in the city, it makes us both realise how much we miss living and sleeping outdoors, on the banks of the River Gambia, paddling along in our canoes each day…there is nothing really quite like West African skies. The staggeringly beautiful dawn, the fiery dusk, and so many stars vying for attention in the night skies.

Watch this space…as our River Gambia Expedition continues to reveal itself

The Florios (H & Flo)

River Gambia Expedition: Mali Ville – ‘we’re on top of the world, ma!’ – Guinea Conakry, West Africa

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H & Florio – on top of the world – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, West Africa

The River Gambia Expedition story, continued…

Thursday 6th December 2012 – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry

And that is exactly what it felt like – Mali Ville being the highest town, elevation-wise, in the Fouta Djallon Highlands. It looked as if you could take a running jump off the edge of the town, right into thin air. And, the air is definitely thinner up there – we were panting for breath as we walked up the steep, rocky, pathway, back to our lodgings.

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The Auberge Indigo hotel, Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry. Image © Jason Florio

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Florio finds a copy of the New Yorker (random!) and reads up about the big blackout which we missed in NY at the end of last year – Auberge Indigo Hotel, Maii Ville, Fouta Djallon © Helen Jones-Florio

Back in the Fouta village – where we paid homage to the source of the River Gambia and the true start of the River Gambia Expeditionwe had piled our gear back on top of the very same battered old Peugeot Estate which we had used to get to there. We then made the 3 ½ hour journey to Mali Ville. As we made our way up and around the staggeringly beautiful and verdant mountains of the Fouta, we drove inches away from sheer drops – enough to make you gasp for air, which had little to do with the altitude. I kept thinking to myself: ‘I can’t wait to get into the canoes ‘– i.e. no more hair-raising, heart-in-your-mouth, spine crunching, car rides! Little did we know then that we were to face a much more grueling journey – riding pillion on taxi motorcycles, no less. More on that later…

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Cozy! All aboard – again! The River Gambia Expedition team and Saif (Galissa Voyage Trekking - centre) pile into yet another Peugeot estate head out for Mali Ville. Image © Jason Florio

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View from a Peugeot – Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

We arrived in Mali Ville, covered in a thick layer of red road dust – it was in our hair, up our noses, in our ears, coating our clothes. As seems to be par for the course, the car windows would not close, without the use of an itinerant ‘manivelle’ – the window winder. Before we set out from the village of the source of the River Gambia, the driver had made a cursory attempt to find it – scrambling around on the already cluttered floor of his vehicle – before eventually shrugging and giving up.

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View from the coffee shop, Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry Image © Jason Florio

First impressions of Mali Ville – Florio and I looked at each other: ‘What a bloody dump!’ – We had entered the town smack bang into the middle of the gare routière – bus station – and mechanics workshops area. If you travel to West Africa, then you will know that these sections of a town are not always indicative of the rest of the place. Disused, defunct, rusty vehicles scattered around the dusty streets; greased up boys, in tatty, filthy clothing – that looked as if they could walk away of their own accord – gathered around motorcycles and heads under hoods of cars. Trash was omnipresent – from the ubiquitous plastic bags; bits of greasy newspaper (used by all the street vendors to wrap sandwiches in); old clothing, embedded into the dirt; rusty car parts; piles of refurbished tires…

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The team take a stroll – Abdou, Ebou & H – Downtown Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry © Jason Florio

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The bread is great in the Fouta Djallon Highlands! Saif and Helen © Jason Florio

After dodgy directions, from a group of local boys, to the guest house, the driver had the unenviable task of having to reverse down an impossibly steep rocky ‘road’ – to find the straighter road we should have taken in the first place, which turned out to be only very slightly less rocky and less steep! We eventually arrived at the gates of the Auberge Indigo hotel, overlooking the downtown area of Mali Ville. We were greeted by Souleyman, the very helpful and informative patron (tel: 62.47.08.68 for reservations) and the first ‘porto’ (as Europeans/white people are called in the Fouta) we had seen in a while – Heidi from Finland. She was in Mali for six months, working for an NGO, and doing her thesis for her Masters degree on the cultural and political history (sic) of Guinea-Conakry. At last, I thought, much needed female company.

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Florio checks the YellowBrick Tracking Device (YB3) messages via Bluetooth and his iPad – Auberge Indigo Hotel, Mali Ville © Helen Jones-Florio

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Anyone for Attayah tea? Saif, Ebou and Abdou contemplate how much sugar they will need – Auberge Indigo Hotel, Mali Ville © Helen Jones-Florio

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Loads a money! – the Guinea Franc (GNF) Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon © Helen Jones-Florio. Shout out to NUUN hydration and the Loveyourself Project

The Auberge is basic. Consisting of two traditional conical huts – one of which was being used by Souleyman at the time – and five or six rooms in a concrete block, set in a large fenced-off compound. No running water but there was a proper bathing area/bathroom – and a big bucket of cold water. Heidi told us how much she was feeling the cold (and she comes from Finland!). To combat this – to take the edge of the icy cold water – she said that she boiled water to wash in, in the battered old kettle, on a gas canister in the communal kitchen. I have to say, I heeded her advice on that score. It’s definitely cooler up in the Fouta. And, what previously felt like a refreshing bucket wash in the lower climbs of The Gambia and Senegal, did feel as if one was bathing in a pre-central-heating, Victorian house, during the heart of winter.

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H gets some down time to type up her journal notes for the blog – Auberge Indigo hotel – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon © Jason Florio

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Boys carrying sticks before heading to school – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon, Guinea-Conakry © Jason Florio

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Coffee Shop – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon © Helen Jones-Florio

People in Mali were extremely friendly and welcoming. Everyone we passed, as we walked into the downtown area to find something to eat, greeted us: ‘Bonsoir, ca va?’ , ‘Jarama’ (the Fouta Djallon is predominantly Fula, or Pule, tribe). And, for the first time since starting out, there were streetlights – hi-tech solar powered ones at that – for a section of the walk into town. However, as we got taking to local people, they didn’t seem particularly impressed. ‘The government does nothing for the people of Guinea…they need to spend money on building proper roads – not putting up street lights’. We had heard the very same sentiments in Labé too – especially, with regards to the dire state of the roads in the Fouta Djallon. ‘The government takes the aid money and we see none of it’ another local taxi driver told us. It is such a shame too – if there were proper roads, then more tourists, not just intrepid travelers, would visit the Fouta – surely? It is such a beautiful place but it takes so long to get from one place to another. And, from the ‘roads’ we experienced, it’s extremely physically demanding – bouncing along those ‘roads’ certainly takes its toll on your coccyx!

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Solar-powered street lights, Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands © Helen Jones-Florio

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What we should have gone to Kedougou in! Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry © Jason Florio

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‘Moto taxis’ – ‘How much will it cost us to go to Kedougou, Senegal, then?’ Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon © Jason Florio

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H and the River Gambia team – waiting…always lots of waiting around in West Africa! Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands © Jason Florio

When in Mali Ville, a visit to the ‘Dame de Mali’ has to be made. After breakfasting on fresh bread, eggs and ripe, luscious avocados – the Fouta Djallon is well-known for its avocados and its freshly baked bread – we set off in a local taxi, and yet another bone-rattling ride, for the short trip up to see the ‘Lady of Mali’

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Making breakfast – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands © Helen Jones-Florio

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The boys head into downtown Mali Ville – L-R: Florio, Ebou, Saif, Souleyman, Abdou, Florio & Ebou © Helen Jones-Florio

And, what a beauty, she, the Dame, is. A local farmer told us that the story goes that her husband, after finding out that his wife had been cheating on him, cursed her and turned her to stone – all on a Friday too, apparently.

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Woman drying her cous cous – Dame de Mali – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands © Jason Florio

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A day out – Florio, H, Abdou & Ebou, Dame de Mali, Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands

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Youtube: Helen & Florio talk about the journey – Dame de Mali, Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon. Click here or on above image to watch footage

As always, thanks for following our journey. More updates coming very soon. And, if you would like to see the River Gambia Expedition route map, please check it out on our YellowBrick page: here.

Until next time!

The Florios – H and Flo

P.S. What’s coming next: 8-hour, bone-rattling, taxi-bike rides up and down the Fouta Djallon Highlands; getting the Ally canoes into the River Gambia for the first time on the expedition; hippo encounters of the (very) close-up kind; hanging out with the gold miners of Senegal.

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H – catching up on more writing whilst waiting for the local transport to take us back to Kedougou, Senegal (which will never come! See next post)- Auberge Hotel, Mali Ville © Jason Florio. Shout out to Overboard bags

A glimpse of whats coming next…

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Coming soon…bone-juddering moto-taxi rides from Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea – Kedougou, Senegal
H: ‘if my dad was around to see me on this (without a helmet too!) – he would kill me!!’

Concern Universal, The Gambia, and the River Gambia Expedition collaboration

On the road to Concern Universal headquarters, Fajara, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

A few years ago, Florio services as a photographer were requested by Concern Universal. In exchange for a vehicle and driver, we drove around to various rural Gambian villages to photograph the boys ‘Coming of Age Ceremonies’ called Futanpuf – huge, traditional, tribal, ceremonies to celebrate the boys ‘initiation’ to manhood. The initiation involves male circumcision – still very prevalent here in West Africa. Once the operation has been performed, the boys are taken into the bush to spend some time in isolation. During this time of, they are taught the ways, and responsibilities, of becoming a man.

Whilst making the rounds of the ceremonies for CU, we also managed to fit in some portraits for a personal portrait project which Florio had been working on, during his travels to The Gambia, over many years – ‘Makasutu-mecca in the forest’. Here is one example of a boy who had just come out of the bush for the ceremony:

Young Gambian boy, dressed for male circumcision (‘coming of age’) ceremony – Myork village, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio, 2008

Yet another fortuitous, timely, meeting here in The Gambia – of which, we are happy to say, there have been many – was for us to meet the new Country Director, for CU, Tony Jansen. It just so happened that Tony, his wife, and daughter, were spending the weekend here at our friends, Geri and Maurice’s, place (Sandele Eco Retreat), a couple of weeks ago.

‘Concern Universal helps communities around the world find practical, long term solutions to poverty.’

We chatted with him about what we were doing – the River Gambia Expedition – and mentioned that Florio had shot some stuff for CU a few years back. Tony said that the website could do with updating with new images but that, as with everything these days, budgets were particularly tight. We also asked him if they had any vehicles going down to Guinea (where they have other projects going on) that we could hitch a ride with, with all our gear. And a plan came into fruition…

After Florio and I hastily put together a proposal, mailed it over to Tony back in his office on the Monday morning, and by the middle of the same week, we had our lift to Tambacunda in Senegal – o.k., not to Guinea but well on the way, at least. And, with CU’s ‘Ordre de Mission’ (a kind of official stamped document to travel across borders which NGOs, amongst others, use for easy passage), it means we are sure to cross through at least one boarder post without too much hassle.

From an assignment we did in DR Congo, for micro-finance group FINCA © Jason Florio ‘Village Banking for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo’

In exchange – our whole journey seems to be based on an exchange – for the vehicle and the driver we will provide CU with images for the website, marketing, annual reports etc. – similar to those (example above) we previously provided for FINCA, a micro-finance bank, in DR Congo.

Again, we’ve made many contacts whilst we’ve been waiting for ‘the black box’ - who we may not have met had we left when we should have done, three weeks ago, on the River Gambia Expedition. It gives one further belief in the often over-used (but often justified too) adage: ‘everything happens for a reason’.

Image – courtesy of the Concern Universal website

We’re really looking forward to working with Concern Universal again. Please take a minute to check out what CU do and, as always, if you like what you read about them, please feel free to spread the CU word. They have a FB page too.

Thanks to CU, we’ll be posting more on our imminent departure date during the next couple of days.

Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by

The Florios (H & Flo)

Transform obstacles – River Gambia Expedition leaving date in sight – at last! Guinea here we come!

A rather apt ‘Thought for the Day’ appeared in my inbox yesterday:

Transform Obstacles
Is life an obstacle course? Sometimes it may feel like it. If you join the military you will be sent around an obstacle course of increasing degrees of difficulty. Why? To increase your strength and stamina and expand your creative capacity under strain. So it is on the course called ‘life’ – you can choose to perceive people, situations or events as obstacles, or you can choose to use these things to strengthen and expand your capacity to be creative and to find ways round, under, over. The choice lies in your perception. Obstacles are never ever ‘out there’, they are always in our own minds.

Will we ever see you again, Peli case?

Despite waiting over two weeks for our shipment of precious cargo to arrive – and now to find out that it’s not coming-anytime-soon either – we are determined to push forward with the River Gambia Expedition. For one thing, we can’t afford not to! This is work, after all. Not some jolly – messing about in the West African bush and on the river – at our own leisure. Secondly, we have to get back home, to New York, sometime this millennium! By the time we get back, we’ll have been away for 8 months – and my Green Card is up for review in March 2013!! I can imagine the stern-faced immigration officer on our arrival back into JFK: ‘So, Mrs Jones-Florio, can you please explain how we were gracious enough to grant you a green card and then you desert the US for 8 months? Do you not like the USA? And, are you aware that your Green Card is up for review very shortly?’.

Little did we know…

We have sat and waited here in The Gambia – each day we should have been on the River Gambia Expedition passing by – receiving varying reports on the whereabouts of our errant container. However, we need to emphasis that this isn’t the fault of Redcoat, who very kindly agreed to ship our gear down here for free – and who have been shipping to West Africa for over 20 years (I’ve shipped stuff with them over the years with no problem whatsoever). They are equally as frustrated as we are, with the middle-men shipping company who take on the responsibility of the container, once it has left UK waters.

Then yesterday, when we heard that the shipment might be another 3 weeks(!), we made the painful decision to pull the plug on the wait for our Peli box and Overboard bag – stuffed with essential gear – and go with Plan B. Ermmm…except we didn’t exactly have a Plan B… as such. Nonetheless, after putting our heads together, we made a few calls, checked with Redcoat to see if they could fly some replacement gear down here for us this week – which they thankfully agreed to – we searched the internet for cheap alternatives to replace the absolute essentials (our already tight budget didn’t take into account having to replace our gear and/or staying here in The Gambia two weeks more than we needed to be. A big lesson – learned the hard/expensive way), to be delivered overnight to Jason’s parents/the in-laws (thanks Wendy & Rodger for their help! Again! ).

All that said, we’ve been keeping ourselves busy here in The Gambia – Tobaski festival; filming the Tolleh Kaafo and melodic Kora players. More on the latter coming very shortly.

Florio – the Pied Piper of Kartong beach – and the Tolleh Kaafo group, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

We got a reaffirming message from author, Tim Butcher, the other day, who has written about, and travelled extensively through, Africa:

‘Hey Helen – have you been able to start your trip yet? Has all the gear arrived? Don’t be disheartened. When Graham Greene trekked Salone and Liberia he left his entire medicine chest back in Freetown. Good luck’ TimB

Thanks Tim, for reminding us of what’s truly important.

So, our leaving date to drive to Guinea, to begin, is in sight again – we are aiming for the middle of next week – once we get our transport pinned down. And, we are more than ready for it – to get this party started – just as our Gambian team mates, Abdou and Ebu are too. Over goat domada, the local spicy peanut stew, at Abdou’s compound the other day he stated in his no nonsense way, plainly: ‘we must just go now and then we come back’. Wise words, Mr Ndong. We’re looking forward to the journey with them both.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Please continue to do so for updates as and when we have more news

The Florios (H & Flo)

If you’d like to check out more of Flo’s work, please visit his website floriophoto.com

Bunja Conteh – Kora player – The Gambia, West Africa

The deft-fingered, Bunja Conteh, and his Kora – melodic and hauntingly beautiful.

“I can sing from mornin’ to dawnin’ ” – Bunja Conteh

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Tap here or on the above image to watch Bunja play on Youtube – footage by Jason Florio

Bunja also happens to come from a lineage of griots (the traditional oral storytellers, poets, and musicians of West Africa). We’ll be posting more about him very soon.

More updates about the River Gambia Expedition incoming so please continue to stop by

The Florios (Helen & Jason)

for all future updates, please visit photostellstories.org)

 

Tobaski – Islamic celebrations in The Gambia – a day of sacrificial feasting, West Africa

Last time we were here, in The Gambia, in 2009, we spent the lead up to Tobaski in a tiny village, called Tuba Dabbo, whilst we were on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’. We were guests of the rather wonderful Mr Bah and his wife, Penda and made to feel extremely welcome.

‘The public holiday is also known as Tabaski or Eid Al Adha when families throughout the Gambia ritually slaughter mostly sheep in ritual sacrifice. The occasion of Tabaski is in commemoration of Abrahams willingness to sacrifice his own son, Ismail, in the name of Allah. It coincides with the end of the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.Access Gambia

The Bah family – the village of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia, West Africa, 2009. Image © Jason Florio

And this year, Friday 26th October, we were equally welcomed as guests of Abby and her family, here in the village of Kartong.

Tobaski hosts: Abby (2nd right, in green) and her family, Kartong, The Gambia, West Africa, 2012. Image © Jason Florio

L-R: Helen, Geri (sitting behind), Mr Badji (with Fatou on his lap), Abby’s sister (with Binta on her lap), Alpha Sanney (with ‘Shadow’ the dog), Abby, Tony (check shirt-volunteer at Sandele Eco Retreat), and ‘Pa’

The prayer ground was situated on the outer edges of the village of Kartong – not in the mosque, where prayers are usually held – due of the volume of villagers who participate in the ritual prayers. An estimated 500 people attended this years Tobaski prayers, held by the village Imam. Traditionally, in Kartong, the Imam, elders and other men from the village parade through the main street, in all their colourful finery, towards the prayer ground.

The Imam and village elders arriving for Tobaski prayers, Kartong village, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio, 2012

Village elder, Mr Jarju (in green), prepares for Tobaski prayers, Kartong village, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

Fatou Geri and Binta, dressed for Tobaski prayers, Kartong village, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio 2012

Mr Badji and Fatou, waiting to go to Tobaski prayers, Kartong village, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

Islam dictates that all females have to cover their head with a scarf, during prayers, and they also have to sit at the back of the prayer ground, behind the men.

Helen, Geri, Fartou & Binta, ready for Tobaski prayers, Kartong village, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio, 2012

Everyone comes out in their finest new clothes…the girls, in particular, all trying to out-do each other. This years colour was most definitely a vibrant cerise.

Kartong village girls covering their heads, ready for Tobaski prayers, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio, 2012

Kartong village menfolk at Tobaski prayer ground, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

After Tobaski prayers, the loud speaker used by the Iman is wheeled away from the prayer ground, to be stored for the next village gathering. Kartong, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio 2012

Aside from the ritual prayers, Tobaski is all about eating – and plenty of it. Therefore a huge volume of rams and goats are ritually sacrificed, after the mass prayers – in the halal way: throats cut with a sharp knife and the blood left to drain from the incision, until the twitching body stills.

“Lunch and dinner…” Sarjo, our friend tells us. He is, of course, referring to the ram. Make the most of that last meal! Kartong Village, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

Sarjo, as head of his household, leads the non-too-happy-ram to it’s Tobaski ritual slaughter, Kartong village, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio 2012

And so, the ritual slaughter of ram (#1 – there were 3 in this particular compound) – Sarjo, his father and brothers get to work, Kartong, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio 2012

I filmed the above scene until I could watch no more – because I was crying by that point – and Florio had to take over. Even though I understand the nuances of the Tobaski tradition of ritual sacrifice, and I am a meat eater (though, not an avid consumer), watching the ram’s pathetic bleating and struggling – and knowing that no one was going to come along and save it at the 11th hour – was just a little too much for my Westernised sensibilities. I decide then and there that I’ll stick to my meat coming neatly packaged, from the deli counter at our local store!

The deed is done…ram #1 is almost ready for the cooking pot. Yum, yum…Kartong, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio, 2012

Once the ritual is completed, and the carcass is stripped of everything – not an inch of it goes to waste – portions of meat have to be shared with those in the community who are unable to afford to buy a ram or goat. This means that no one misses out on the mass feasting and celebrations which ensue. Within a very short time, after the ritual slaughter, the aroma of barbequed ram and goats (and cows, for those who can afford it and/or who club together in a compound to be able to buy one) permeates the air – and will carry on doing so for the next couple of days.

As guests of honor at Abby’s compound, we were given the freshest of fried liver and kidneys (served with onions and warm tapalapa – local bread) from her very recently slaughtered goat – which we also witnessed – and, I have to say, it was deliciously tasty and tender. Perhaps, I need to rethink the neatly packaged deli theory…

H & Geri – Abby’s house for Tobaski lunch, Kartong, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

We felt very honoured to have been included in this very traditional Muslim celebration – and accepted without question – and thankful for everyone we came across being open to having their photographs taken.

The day after Tobaski, our good friend Geri tells us that they nicknamed the day ‘the silence of the rams’…and there was not a bleat to be heard as we made our way through the village of Kartong on Saturday.

More updates coming soon on our departure date for Guinea – to begin the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source to sea African odyssey’

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Helen & Florio

For more of Jason Florio’s work, please visit his website: floriophoto.com