Behind the scenes : Jason Florio’s portrait of ‘Samba Fishing’ – the River Gambia, West Africa

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Florio photographs young Gambian, Samba, fishing on the River Gambia, Kuntaur, The Gambia, West Africa, 10th  January 2013 © Helen Jones-Florio

During our time canoeing down the River Gambia, on our exploration of the people whose livelihoods depend on the river, we spent each night wild camping on a different river bank – whether it be camping on a sand bank in the middle of the river (burning a fire all night long to deter the hippos), on rocky outcrops miles from the nearest village, and other times, on the edge of a village, if it was next to the bank.

This particular day, we arrived mid-afternoon into the village of Kuntaur – where we had stayed previously, whilst on our 2009 ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush‘ – which is situated on the banks of the river. We set up our campsite in the grounds of a small riverbank lodge and, as had become the norm, instantly attracting hordes of local kids – shouting and screaming, all vying for our attention, fascinated with our tents and equipment – before the caretaker of the lodge shooed them away – “atchayah! atchayah!” (go away, get lost! A Mandinka word Gambians use to scatter mischievous kids and the scores of scavenging bush dogs alike!).

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Samba comes from school to pull his nets from the River Gambia © Jason Florio

As we were about to settle down for a well-deserved cup of tea , having paddled almost 33km that day – a tough, exhausting 10km of it against the tide – we noticed a young boy, out on the river, in a local pirogue that looked far too big for him to handle on his own. We called him over and he paddled towards us with such ease and dexterity, as if he was steering a small rubber dinghy and not a heavy wooden dug out canoe, carved from a tree trunk.

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Samba fishing © Jason Florio

His name was Samba and he was ‘11 or 12 years old‘ (usually, in this part of the world, only the actual birth date is celebrated, which results in most people not really knowing exactly how old they are). He had come straight from school, to pull in his families fishing nets from the river, to see what catch they had that day. He was also the one who had thrown the nets, on his way to school that morning – as he did every day. He told us that, depending on the size of the catch, he would take a little home to his family and the rest he would take to the equivalent of the local fish monger to sell, to make money for his family and also to buy his school books and other materials, which were essential for him  to study.

We met a number of remarkable people – adults and children alike – on our river journey. Samba will always stick out in our minds…an inspiring little boy, to say the least. In fact, I can think of a couple of our nieces and nephews who think it’s the end of the world if they don’t get the latest upgrade cell phone, who would benefit greatly from spending just one day in Samba’s company!

Thanks, as ever, for stopping by.

More river stories soon.

The Florios (H & Flo)

Jason Florio: ‘River Gambia‘ body of work

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Flo & H © Chris Bartlett

Dawn to Dusk – the splendor of West African skies

Dusk over the River Gambia, Tendaba, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

Just one of the many things that we love about being down in West Africa is the sky…especially the dawn and dusk skies. Stupefyingly brilliant, incomparable, sunrises and sunsets – and we aren’t talking light pollution here (due to their being very little electricity supply, if any, in most places). This is natural beauty, in its truest form.

It’s not just the spectacular colours……… it’s also the real sense of peace, an inner stillness, that one feels when walking along at dawn with the sounds of the bush waking up around you – a sound which reaches a crescendo as the sun rises higher through the dawn sky. And, despite the cacophony of chitter, chattering birds, monkeys, farting goats and donkeys (yes, really) – and whatever else is out there in the bush that you can’t see and/or really don’t want to see – there is still that over-riding sense of all being well with the world.

Here are just a smattering – of many – images from various visits down to The Gambia. We can’t wait to get back there…to stare, transfixed in wonderment, at these skies again.

Ever the photographer: Florio surveys the beauty – crossing the river at Kalaji, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

That sense of peace – H on the road at dawn, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

Helen – dusk over Mandina Balong, Makasutu, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

Kunta Kinteh Island (James Island), Juffereh, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

Florio leaving Kunta Kinteh Island (James Island), Juffereh, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

H and the ‘Short Walk’ expedition team cross the river at Kalaji, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

If you would like to see more images from The Gambia, please visit our other blog – ‘A Short walk in the Gambian Bush - 930m African odyssey’ or check out ‘Expedition Africa

Florio, a multi-award-winning photographer, will no doubt be producing some stunning work whilst we are on the forthcoming River Gambia Expedition (we are hoping to leave for West Africa in a few short weeks – at last!). If you would like to get involved in ‘An Exchange’ - donations for Jason Florio’s limited edition fine art photography prints, taken whilst we are in Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia, please check out this link, or watch Florio tell all about it, here on YouTube

Please click image to watch the video

Here’s just one of many images, which were available, as prints, to those people who supported ‘An Exchange’ on out last expedition in 2009 – A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey, when Florio produced an award-winning body of work: portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders (which were also available to our donors, to choose their favourite print from)

James Island at dusk, Juffereh, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

We hope you enjoy following the journey with us – we’ll be updating regularly with road stories and images galore.

More soon!

The Florios