Welcome onboard – Pehr Karlsson of Organo Gold

We want to welcome Pehr Karlsson of Organo Gold who has jumped on board as a very generous fiscal sponsor. I met Pehr in May in the beautiful Swedish village of Jät while I was shooting a story on Mid-Summer for the New York Times. I needed to file an image for a Newsweek cover – very urgently and did not expect to find even a slow connection in this sleepy farming village. Pehr said I could use the wifi at his farm house – it is to this day the fastest internet connection I have ever used – the huge file needed for the Newsweek cover blasted down the wire in nano-seconds. Pehr saved the day ! Pehr is a distributor for Organo Gold and travels the globe in the process. Organo Gold produces a line health products including coffee, tea and hot chocolate with ‘Ganoderma’ – a fungus that has been tested for potential therapeutic benefits including :

Check out Organo Gold line Pehr’s contact info is there – I am sure he would be happy to hear from you !

Thank you for stopping by – Florio x

Click on image to support our KS page-Deadline 15th Oct. 2012

Here’s what else we get up to in West Africa: Jason Florio’s award-winning series of portraits – ‘Makasutu’

Ismaila on his white horse, Junpex – The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio 2008

Jason Florio’s series of black and white portraits, taken over a period of 12 years, resulted in ‘Makasutu – mecca in the forest’ – a book and and an award-winning body of work.

These are just a few of the portraits that we worked on together, whilst staying at Makasutu Culture Forest and travelling around the villages, in The Gambia, West Africa, to see the male and female ‘coming of age’ ceremonies.

L-R: Ousman Kujabi – young Gambian, dressed for male circumcision (‘coming of age’) ceremony Lamin Saidy – young Gambian driver, Kombo Central, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio 2008

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


As always, thanks for stopping by. More news on the ‘River Gambia Expedition 2012 – 1000km source to sea African odyssey’ coming soon.

The Florios (H & Flo)







Looking Back: the story behind one of Jason Florio’s award-winning portraits of Gambian village chiefs

Alkalo Masanneh Cham,The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio – 2009

Excerpt from ‘A Short Walk in the Gambia Bush - minty abanta!’ by Helen Jones-Florio – journal and blog entries from from their 2009 expedition, ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’

Wednesday 9th December, 2009 – the village of Chamen Sosseh. Distance walked to-date: 827.55km

‘When we reach the village, we find that it’s actually only a couple of houses set around the Alkalo’s (the village chief) compound. The chief is called Massaneh Cham. He is a grand old man and very dapper – with his flowing, pristine, white robes, red and white skullcap, sporting a white beard, topped off with gold-rimmed, aviator-style shades. The villagers prove almost instantly that they have a playful sense of humour (even if we don’t realize the joke is on us until half and hour later), as a heavily pregnant, pretty young woman walks up to us and the chief – who has to be well into his 60’s, early seventies even – and he proudly tells us that this is his wife (my ‘muso’). She laughs uproariously and gives him a hug, as the rest of the villagers around us join in the laughter. Flo smiles appreciatively, at the old chief, in that one-man-to-another knowing kind of way.

‘Images from the road’ – the chief’s daughter-in-law (middle) shares a joke with her friend, in the village of Chamen Sosseh, The Gambia, West Africa, 2009. Image © Jason Florio

‘Once Flo presents the ‘silafando’ (gift of kola nuts), and the chief kindly agrees to sit for a portrait, we prepare the backdrop. The old chief is a little unsteady on his legs so we find a wooden bench for him to sit on. I scan around the compound and see a pure white goatskin, stretched over a branch on a nearby tree. Suddenly I’m a stylist, as I think that it will go perfectly with the chief’s outfit – draped over the bench he’s sitting on. I ask one of the young boys, who is helping us, to go and ask the chief’s wife if we can use the goatskin. He calls out a name, and from inside a nearby hut, an elderly woman comes out and walks towards us. The boy asks her, in Mandinka, about the skin and she nods and goes to fetch it. I ask the boy where the chief’s wife has gone – “she is the chiefs wife” he replies. “Ah, I see, she must be number one muso?” – just as the heavily pregnant woman walks back into the compound – “and she is number two muso?” I say to him, pointing at the young woman. He turns and says something to the two women. The women, and everyone else fall around laughing – the young pregnant woman, hanging onto her friend, laughing so hard that there are tears coming out of her eyes. Even the old chief is bent over, laughing. The boy says something rapidly in Mandinka to Janneh, which he translates back to Flo and I. It seems that we are the butt-end of their joke. The young pregnant woman is, in fact, the chief’s son’s wife. The old chief obviously thought that he’d pull one over on us – the wily old fox! Or, wishful thinking, perhaps…’

Chamen Sosseh orchard, The Gambia, West Africa, 2009 – Image © Helen Jones-Florio

‘Mr Cham has given us the use of his mango orchard, which is at the back of his compound. It’s a beautiful, tranquil, setting, with lots of open space surrounding it. It has to be another one of my favourite camping spots on the journey, so far. We have plenty of room to spread the tents out. So, I ask Flo that we put our tent up, facing west – even though it means its pointed away from the others – because I want to sit and watch the sunset, as I write in my journal, whilst waiting for dinner (which the chiefs wife – his real wife – is very kindly cooking for us). I sit there, just inside our tent, the flaps tied back, and I can see nothing but trees, bushes and fields. There’s even grass on the orchard ground. And, I think to myself, that if there hadn’t been mangoes on the trees, I could easily be back in England, sitting in one of the village orchards we used to go scrumping for apples or gooseberries in as a kid. Mind you, not that we did much sitting around in those orchards – it was more like grab as much fruit as you could and scarper!’


Florio photographs the village chief – the Alkalo – of Khalaji village, The Gambia, West Africa

Lamin Jammeh - village chief of Khalaji village, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

Portrait of Lamin Jammeh – village chief of Khalaji village, The Gambia, West Africa – award-winning image © Jason Florio

On our last expedition in 2009, ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’, when we walked completely around the small West African country of The Gambia, an important part of our journey was to document the people who we met along the way. We did this through photography and writing a blog

It wasn’t until we got on the ground, in Gambia, and talked with two of our local Gambian expedition team mates, Janneh and Samba, that we came up the idea of Florio photographing the village chiefs – known locally as Alkalos. But, in order to do this, we had to follow local protocol. There is a longstanding, inspiring, tradition in The Gambia called ‘Silafando’ – a Mandinka word which translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey’. It meant that whenever we entered a village, the first thing we would have to do was to introduce ourselves to the chief and then offer the ‘Silafando’ – a gift of kola nuts. This a great sign of respect to the chief, his elders and the Gambian culture. Once the chief accepted the ‘Silafando’ it signified that we were welcomed and allowed to camp in the village – either in the chief’s compound, if it was spacious enough, or somewhere else, preferably in a shady spot (beneath a the large leafy neem tree, for example). It also meant that we were in the village as guests of the chief – under his protection – and traditionally, in turn, the villagers treat any travelers with respect; as we respected them too.

The team camp under the trees in Khalaji village, The Gambia

The ‘Short Walk’ team camp in the shade of the trees in Khalaji village, The Gambia, West Africa – Image © Jason Florio

I’d sometimes film some of the photo shoots – ‘Wobbly Productions’ (for obvious reasons!). Here is a link to Youtube and Florio photographing Lamin Jammeh - the village chief of Khalaji. See how many kids there are? This was indicative of almost all of the villages we stayed in…we’d be constantly surrounded, and every move watched, by dozens of curious, boisterous, vociferous children!

After the shoot, chief Lamin Jammeh got down to the business of sweeping the ground, around our camp site, with us – his ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth – to make sure that we “the toubabs are comfortable in their home for the night”. How cool is he.

The chief, Lamin Jammeh, cleans up! Khalajo village, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

On our next journey, the River Gambia Expedition, 2012, we hope to make a similar project, collecting – through multiple medias: visual/written/audio – stories documenting the lives and cultures of the indigenous people, who live and work along the course of the course of the River Gambia.- one of Africa’s last free-flowing, major rivers Starting in the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea, on into hippo-abundant Niokolo Koba National Park, Senegal, and finally into The Republic of the Gambia – following the same course as the early gold and slave traders had done century’s ago – to the 10km wide mouth of the river, where it opens into the Atlantic Ocean, after over a 1000km journey.

*Jump on board and enjoy the journey with us.

As always, thanks for stopping by

The Florios

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Please click on the image below to watch Jason Florio as he explains how you can own one of his fine art photography prints, from a series of images he will take whilst on the River Gambia Expedition 2012:

We’re new guest bloggers on ‘Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine’ for our ‘River Gambia 2012 Expedition’

safari interactive magazine

Making the portriat of Alkalo Dadi Bah, Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia, West Africa

L-R: Janneh (‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush’ expedition, 2009, team member), Jason Florio, Alkalo (chief) Dadi Bah & Helen Jones-Florio – Jason took the portrait of the chief and it became part of an award-winning series of portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders.

We’re stoked to be on board with Safari Interactive Magazine, who’s readers will follow our journey – the lead up and then, eventually, getting our canoes into one of the last big, free-flowing rivers in West Africa, to make the first recorded source to sea expedition of the River Gambia.

We’ll begin our adventure in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea, onto into the hippo-abundant waters of Niokolo National Park in Senegal, and finally into The Gambia,- a country we both know extremely well – where we head towards the Atlantic Ocean, and where the river is over 10km wide, and the River Gambia’s and our journey’s end, after traversing over 1000kms.

Traveling by canoe and foot through the homelands of over seven different tribes, we will be following the same course as the early gold and slave traders have done century’s ago. Along the way, we will collect visual/written/audio stories – through multiple medias – documenting the lives and cultures of the indigenous people, who live and work along the course of the River Gambia. Which we’ll be blogging about, on here and Safari Interactive Magazine , as often as we can.

Tourey (the chiefs wife) & R: Kanifana Tourey, Balanghar, The Gambia © Jason Florio

L: Uma Sallah Tourey (the chiefs wife) & R: Kanifana Tourey, Balanghar – from the Wolof tribe, The Gambia © Jason Florio, 2009

‘Silafando’ - (a Mandinka word meaning ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey) the ward-winning series of portraits which Florio took on our last expedition ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’ – where we walked, the entire way, around the small West African country, with two donkeys (called ‘Neil’ and ‘Paddy’ – yes, really) and a cart, to carry our camera and camping gear – and no cheating! Not one of us, bar Momadou (our donkey handler) jumped on that cart. Believe me, after a day of 1o grueling miles of walking, in 100 degree heat, red dust coating everything, there was many time when I wanted to!

A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush

Ahhh…a tarmac road. Much easier then our usual day of deep, rutted, sandy pathways, to get the cart over! Helen and team (including Paddy, the donkey) take a ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush’ all 930kms of it! Image © Jason Florio, 2009

Our head-strong, but extremely loveable (trumpeting-like farting and all!), diminutive, four-legged team mates were kindly loaned to us by Heather Armstrong of The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust , a charity, based in the village of Sambel Kunda, The Gambia. The Trust do fantastic work to rehabilitate abused and injured donkeys, as well educating locals on how to take better care of their donkeys – i.e. not to tether them, with rope, by their ankles – thereby cutting of circulation which can lead to gangrene and, often, the donkeys will be destroyed. A non-working donkey is of no use to a Gambian, who use them purely for transport and farming. Also, most Gambians just don’t have the resources to pay veterinary bills. This is also where TGHDT charity help out – by offering their voluntary vets services for free.

An injured horse, the Gambia, west africa

Sedemas was brought to us with a horrific wound/mass on her face. It had started out as a small wound because someone had thrown a stone at her to chase her away from their field of crops…to read more and find out what happend to Sedemas, please click on TGHDT link to visit their Facebook page (these images are taken from the Trusts FB page)

More updates on how our pre-planning of River Gambia Expedition 2012 is going, coming soon.

Thanks for stopping by.

H & Flo – The Florios

We are now guest bloggers for Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine!

We’re excited to have been invited to be guest bloggers, on Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine - all things Africa and a great way for us to reach a wider audience.

Here’s their introduction, and first posting, from them to the River Gambia 2012 Expedition – featuring Florios award-winning portraits of village chief and elders from our 2009 expedition – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey

Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine-River Gambia Expedition 2012

‘Safari is a hot new travel magazine from the award winning Africa Geographic publishing stable. Safari is all about evocative digital story telling, with rich multi-media content and travel features packed full of videos, sound effects, music and photography. Our team of Africa-trotting travel journos bring you spellbinding stories featuring sunsets over the Serengeti, gorilla trekking in the jungles of Uganda, foodie finds from the souqs of Marrakech, and much much more. If your wanderlust yearns for Africa, feed it with Safari.’

Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine

Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Magazine

Jason Florio’s Award-winning Portraits of Village Chiefs and Elders – Limited Edition Prints from the 2009 Expedition Donors

June 13th 2012

The series of portraits that Florio took on our 2009 expedition, of village chiefs/Alkalo’s and elders became an award-winning body of work and featured in Resource Magazine, cover of PDN (Photo District News) etc…

2010 NY Photo Festival, Honorary Mention – fine art/personal series

2010 Lucie’s/International Photography Awards – over all winner ‘People’ category

2010 Lucie’s/ International Photography Awards – 1st place ‘People : ‘Culture’

The portraits were also available for those donors, who donated for limited edition expedition prints in 2009, to make their choices from.

Limited Edition Expedition 2012 Prints: If you make a donation of $100/£65 or over, you will be offered a selection of fine art photography Limited Edition Prints to choose from, from the expedition – how much you donate will determine the size of print you will receive. Please see our ‘How to Donate’ page – the in’s and out’s.

'Silafando' © Jason FlorioL-R: Umbi Salla Touray (Alkalo’s mother) & Kanifana Touray (Alkalo’s sister-in-law)
Balanghar Bental, The Gambia, West Africa, 2009 © Jason Florio

'Silafando' © Jason Florio

Herouan Tonkara, with his horse, Suduwole, The Gambia, West Africa, 2009 © Jason Florio

'Silafando' © Jason FlorioL-R: Lamin Sanneh – Alkalo’s messenger & farmer and Demba Sanneh – farmer, Genieri
The Gambia, West Africa, 2009 © Jason Florio

PDN - Photo District News  - Cover ShotAlkalo Messaneh Cham,The Gambia West Africa

Please see Florio’s website for the series of portraits:

Thanks for jumping on board!

The Florios (H & Flo)

Links: http://resourcemagonline.com/


http://www.pdnonline.com/pdnedu/Business-Smarts-A-L-679.shtml Crowd Funding – including our 2009 expedition



Meeting with Ambassador Mamadi Touré – Guinea Consulate, New York

L-R: Fanta Kaba, Ambassador Mamadi Touré, Florio, Rockyatou Diallo – Guinea Consulate, NYC.

Friday 18th May, 2012 – Guinea Consulate New York City

Two weeks ago, we were kindly granted an audience with the extremely busy Ambassador for Guinea in New York, Mnr Mamadi Touré. Because it’s always important to us to be courteous and respectful wherever we travel, we requested the meeting to let the ambassador know about our plans to travel through his country, along the River Gambia, in West Africa. We also wanted to ask his advice about any ‘in-country’ issues that he felt we should be aware of.

So, it was with great pleasure to walk into the offices of the consulate, on a sunny Friday afternoon in May, to find ourselves surrounded by a very familiar sight: men dressed in traditional outfits, grandboubou’s, and the women, vibrant and colourful, in their grandmuba’s (or kaftan’s) and musorr (head dresses).

L-R: Fanta Kaba, Ambassador Mamadi Touré, Helen Jones-Florio, Rockyatou Diallo

In Mnr Touré’s office, we spent a very convivial half an hour, drinking black tea and chatting with him and his young interns, Fanta Kaba, and Rockyatou Diallo. The ambassador, along with all his staff – notably Madam Barry, the ambassador’s personal assistant, and counsellor, Mnr Chérif Diallo – were, not surprisingly, immensely knowledgeable and insightful about Guinea. We gained some helpful local tips on the country from all of them – i.e. where exactly the source, and the start of our journey, of the River Gambia is (or may be – we have yet to truly find out)!

Along with sanctioning our Guinean visas, the ambassador very graciously offered to write us a ‘letter of introduction‘ which will, hopefully, ease our passage through Guinea – should we come across any police or army check-points. These kind of letters were invaluable during our ‘Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey‘ http://930kmafricanodyssey.tumblr.com/ . Without such letters of introduction, dealing with certain police officers and military personnel could have turned out to be have been much more problematic.

Our next meeting, in a couple of days, will be with the Liaison Officer, Lily Valtchanova, at UNESCO, in New York. Because we will be travelling through a couple of World Heritage Sites (including Niokolo Koba National Park, Senegal and Kunta Kinteh Island, The Gambia), we’d like to find out if there is anything that we can collaborate – or contribute (image-wise) – on. And, whether they can offer any further advice about the regions we will be travelling through.

More on that shortly…

Thanks for stopping by.

Helen Jones-Florio & Jason ‘Flo’ Florio

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