Jason Florio photograph’s the boy in the fur coat – The Gambia, West Africa

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YOUTUBE: Florio at work – The Gambia, West Africa. Please click on the above image to view footage

Diagabou village, The Gambia, West Africa

This little boy in the fur coat was the son of alkalo Bakary Dabo, the village chief. On the morning we were leaving, he had followed Florio and Ebou, when they returned from the village, with his friend in tow, to say goodbye. They vied for Florio’s attention with the camera.

I think both of them shine, in their own way…


The boy in the fur coat – Latest Work: River Gambia © Jason Florio

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Boy in the red jumper: River Gambia © Jason Florio

More to come from the River Gambia Expedition soon. In the meantime, please check out Florio’s latest work, from the 1000km+ road and river journey, on his website: floriophoto.com

Thanks for stopping by

Helen & Florio




A woman’s fight for her right to paddle…on the River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa

17th December: Sila Kounda – Djinji, Senegal. 26.06km

This paddle is mine – look it’s even got my name on it!“. And that’s exactly what I had to do – write my name on the bloody thing!

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‘Go on, I dare you…just try and take this paddle from me!’ H, Sila Kounda © Jason Florio

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Youtube: H and HER paddle! The River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa- click image or here to view footage

Ok…so this side was a thank you to one of our donors (thanks, Suzy Peters, Hampstead Village, London, UK – it did the job!). My name is on the other side – honestly.

Yesterday, our first day on the river, because we had an extra man for seven days (Yousef, our Malian fisherman/guide), I agreed with Florio to do some filming, instead of paddling. But, I would definitely be paddling each day – it was a given, as far as I was concerned. Not so, it seems, with our team mates and Yousef.

The conversation with River Gambia Expedition team member, Ebou, and Yousef this morning, when I picked up the paddle, as we headed out for the river:

Yousef: “Non, non!” and then some rapid-fire Bamabara, jumbled up with Mandinka, directed at Ebou (Ebou even admitted he had problems understanding Yousef sometimes – as he switched fluidly from Bambara to Mandinka in one sentence).

Me: “Abdou has to use his paddle – I need to paddle today”. After trying our aluminium TNP paddles on the river from Kedougou yesterday, he had quickly reverted back to the traditional wooden paddle he had brought with him from The Gambia. So, why would it be a problem?

Florio: “It’s ok, H, we can take turns with my paddle”

Me: ‘No! I want to paddle – just like everyone else on this journey! This is not open for discussion, guys” – i.e. don’t treat me like the only muso (woman) that I am on the team. “I do not want to fight with you, to use my own paddle!“. Besides, it’s got my name on it – now. Albeit hastily scribbled on it this morning with my Sharpie.

More rapid-fire conversation between Ebou and Yousef.

Ebou: “Yousef said that the (TNP) paddles are better for going through the fast water”

Me: “But what would you normally use – you didn’t have these paddles before?” Answer that one and stay fashionable, Ebou. “Also, Abdou didn’t like using them before and now suddenly he seemingly can’t paddle without it?!”

Ebou: “Yes, but Yousef said that they are better”

Me: “Again, what would you normally use?

Ebou – stalwart as ever: “But they are better”

There is no arguing with these guys, I thought, as I climbed into the canoe with my paddle (marked with my name – a petty victory, perhaps) and Abdou climbed into the other, with his. He didn’t appear to be too perturbed by using his own paddle (see following photo). It was more about muso’s don’t paddle – i.e. it’s a man’s job as far as they were concerned. But then I could argue about all the female fisher women you see on the river…the predominantly female oyster collectors in the balongs …however, it just wouldn’t be worth the hassle – deaf ears, and all that. They simply couldn’t comprehend that I, a toubab muso at that, actually wanted to paddle. This was going to be a long journey…

Abdou & paddle

Unperturbed? Abdou with his traditional paddle – River Gambia, Senegal © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio – screen grab from film footage

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Arrival – Djinji, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Girls washing laundry at in the River Gambia, Djinji, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Woman washing her corn in the River Gambia, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Kids and their dogs, Djinji, Senegal © Jason Florio

On our arrival at Djinji village, we were told by the woman washing her corn in the River Gambia, that sadly the village chief’s brother had passed away and the whole village was in mourning. As with our 2009 expedition - A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – we were using the traditional method of ‘Silafando’ when meeting with the village chief. At first, we thought that perhaps we should paddle on a little further, to the next village, so as not disturb the chief. However, Abdou seemed to think that we should carry on up to the village, pay our respects, and take it from there.

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Djinji school yard – Djinji, Senegal © Jason Florio

We went to meet the chief, presented the Silafando – kola nuts – and, despite his very recent bereavement, he kindly welcomed us into the village. People were arriving from villages all around the area, to pay their respects and prey – the chiefs compound was getting decidedly crowded. Due to the village being in mourning, the school was closed, so the school headmaster suggested that we camp in the school yard.

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Our campsite (and the cart that brought our gear from the river), Djinji, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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The Kelly Kettle is always a show stopper! Djinji, Senegal © Jason Florio

Meeting with the old blind chef de village of Djinji

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The Imam , head of the local mosque (middle), prays with the chief and his wife – Abdou, on the right, pays his respects, Djinji © Jason Florio

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Chef de village, in prayer, Djinji © Jason Florio

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‘Rosa’ – a Nigerian woman we met in Djinji who was working at the local gold mine. Her English was very good and we wanted to interview her about her experiences at the mines. However, she was reticent about that but agreed to have her photograph taken © Jason Florio

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Praying for the dead – Djinji village, Senegal – filmed by Helen Jones-Florio © Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio – click here or on the above image to view

Coming next…more hanging out in the gold mines, near to the River Gambia, in Senegal.

Thanks as always for stopping by

The Helen & Florio

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A migrant worker from Guinea poses with his shovel he uses to excavate sand from the River Gambia in Senegal. The sand will be washed and mixed with mercury to extract gold © Jason Florio

We’re almost there – a day nearer to trekking and canoeing on our West Africa documentary photography expedition

Gambian woman washes her bowls at the well as horses drink from it – Image © Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa, 2012

On our last expedition, in 2009, we walked 930km around the small West African country of The Gambia (which is a country that we both love and seem to be drawn back to, year after year), with two donkeys and a cart – as one does – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’. A big part of that journey was staying in a different village each night. That is, once we had asked permission of the village chief – the ‘alkalo’ – a traditional, and very important, protocol that has to be adhered to, out of respect for the chief, his elders and the villagers who hosted us.

Both Florio (Jason) and I have been back and forth to The Gambia for over 15 years now and, over the last four years we have worked together, on capturing his portraits of some of the Gambian people we’ve met along the way. However, Jason has also worked on a long-term project, called Makaautu – mecca in the forest’ of which I have only been fortunate to have worked with him on over these last four years. Here is one of his very first images, from the Makasutu series…from ‘back in the early days’, which I love. We often muse over where these boys – now men – are now. Look at it carefully…check out what a couple of the young Gambian boys are casually holding.

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. Image © Jason Florio

Another early days photograph, from the Makasutu series…there’s strength, proudness and knowledge in these women, that you see often. Gambian women are the backbone of the country…keeping everything together – their families, their compounds, harvesting…multi-taskers (and tough taskmasters!), in the truest sense. I wouldn’t argue with these women!

A group of Gambian village elder women, Kombo Central, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

And, one from our time on the road together – we met this man, Dembo, when we were camping in small village, whilst on our ‘Short Walk’. We heard him before we saw him, with his boombox blaring, skanking down the dusty road towards us..he then proceeded to do a little dance for us. It was a job just to get him to stand still, so Florio could take the photo!

Portrait of Gambian man, Dembo Silla playing ‘blues’ from Mali, on his boombox, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

And, just one more, from the Makasutu series of portraits – one that I’m particularly proud to be part of, after having spotted this wonderful old gentleman, Mr Kujabi, in the crowd – from when we were roaming around the ‘Coming of Age’ ceremonies, in the more rural village of The Gambia, in 2008. And, he was the one who insisted on having his little silver pipe in the photograph!

Kujabi - Gambian farmer, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

Kujabi – Gambian farmer, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio – 2008

I hope the above images, give you a sense of why we do what we do…and why we can’t wait to get down to West Africa for our River Gambia Expedition – which will take us even further afield, to explore and document, unknown (to us, at least) territories.

We now have only 10 days left to the deadline on Kickstarter – 15th October 2012. If you’d like to support us, there are rewards – Florio’s limited edition fine art photography prints. Please check out the page

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

Thanks, as always, for stopping by. More updates coming very soon – particularly about our pending departure date to West Africa on 16th October!

Helen & Florio