Artsy.net – ‘Boat as Subject: Sebastião Salgado, Jason Florio, and More…’

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‘Swimming Horse’ crossing the River Gambia, Karantaba, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio 2013

We’re honored to have Jason Florio’s fine art prints – images from both of our West Africa journeys – currently featured on Artsy.net:Herouna Tonkara with his Horse‘ from A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush-930km African odyssey‘ (2009) and ‘Swimming Horses‘ from the ‘River Gambia Expedition-1000km source-sea African odyssey‘ (2013)

'Herouna with his horse' The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio 2009

‘Herouna Tonkara with his horse’ The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio 2009

For an update on what’s happening in the Florio camp, please visit this link

Jason Florio – ‘River Gambia’ – new series of images

 © Jason Florio

© Jason Florio

© Jason Florio

© Jason Florio

© Jason Florio

© Jason Florio

To view more of Jason Florio’s new series of images – ‘River Gambia’ – taken whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition-1000km source-sea African odyssey‘ please visit the website: florio photo.com

Photographs from the length of a mighty river, by Jason Florio: The River Gambia, West Africa

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© Jason Florio

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© Jason Florio

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© Jason Florio

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© Jason Florio

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© Jason Florio

To see more from the River Gambia Expedition series by Jason Florio, please visit his website floriophoto.com

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Florio – The Great Rift Valley, Kenya © Helen Jones-Florio

Photographer, Jason Florio – hanging with the gold miners of Senegal, West Africa

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© Jason Florio

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© Jason Florio

Sunday December 16th – Sila Kounda, Senegal

Starting from where we left in our last blog post about the River Gambia Expedition…we decided to spend a couple of days in the village, because there was a gold mine, Laminia, which we wanted to go and see – ’about 1km’ walk away. We set off, with the chief’s 12-year old grandson, Ibrahima, leading the way. Four kilometers later, and a paddle across the River Gambia in a model-sized dugout – looking as if it could barely float, and which Yousef had to bail water out of each time he came back across the river to take us over, one by one – we reached the gold mines.

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Our Malian fisherman/guide comes back over the River Gambia to take the team, one by one, to the opposite bank © Helen Jones-Florio

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Our Malian fisherman/guide comes back over the River Gambia to take the team, one by one, to the opposite bank © Jason Florio

With both freshly dug and discarded mining holes everywhere you stepped, we gingerly edged our way along the narrow pathways between the holes . All around us, disembodied voices came out of the ground – from the narrow 20-30ft deep deep holes – shouting for the boys waiting at the top to haul up the plastic buckets; many of which are adapted from the ubiquitous 5 gallon plastic water containers. The rocks are taken to be smashed down into dust, washed and then shifted for a precious speck of gold – if they are the lucky ones.

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No safety harnesses here! Ebou hangs onto Florio – that hole is deep! Laminia gold mine, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

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Gold miner coming up for his hourly break – the girls bring food and hang around the holes. Some of them work on the mine face too © Jason Florio

The men, young boys and quite a few women, many with their babies crawling around in the dust beside them – often precariously close to the holes – are from all over West Africa: Guinea-Conakry, The Gambia, Mali, Gunea-Bisseau, Ghana, Senegal…all hoping to strike gold. Only then, do many of those we spoke to feel they can go back to their homelands – with something to show for, on average, of between 6-12 months spent in an environment of breathing, eating and sleeping in the dust. Some of the men we spoke to had been at the mine for years. Villages spring up around the mines, to cater for the continuous influx of hopeful people. We would see many of these places – Wild West-esque, ramshackle villages, throughout our travels along the River Gambia in Senegal.

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A gold miner rests, Laminia mines, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Gold miner at work, Laminia, Senegal © Jason Florio

We had read, previously when researching the gold mines of Senegal, that we either shouldn’t visit them or be very cautious if we did: because there is such a diverse cross section of people from all over West Africa – some of whom are so desperate that they would have no qualms about doing you serious harm, to take from you what they want. And, I have to say, I was more than a little nervous – being the only toubab woman in our group too – when we went to the first mine.

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Mining holes snake their way through the mining area – Laminia, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

However, we didn’t encounter any hostility from anyone we met – and we visited a number of mines along the river. Yes, there were a few people who were very vocal about not pointing cameras in their direction and we respected that. And, I’m not saying that some of these miners wouldn’t rob you of your belongings if the opportunity arose. But, then again, that can happen anywhere. At each mine, we spent a couple of hours walking around (whilst trying not to fall into holes!), talking with the miners, and, on the whole, we were made to feel very welcome. Besides, most of the miners seemed just as curious about us as we were about them and were more than happy to share there stories.

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H, Ebou and Ibrahim – Laminia gold mines, Senegal © Jason Florio

And, someone may just hit the jackpot…

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Gold! Senegal © Jason Florio

After a couple of hours at the mine, we made the long walk back (let me tell you, 4km is a long way in 100degree heat!), across the river, to the village of Sila Kounda to get ready to leave the next morning.

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Larking around – Yousef carrying Florio, with Abdou’s help, from the dug out to the river bank ‘he cannot get his nice shoes wet’! Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Everything is fascinating…to the kids – Sila Kounda, Senegal © helen jones-Florio

Monday December 17th – leaving Sila Kounda

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I wonder if we will see the old chief again – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

After thanking him for him and his family for the hospitality, and bidding farewell to the old chief, we load ‘The Twins’ up and head back out onto the River Gambia, for the next village along the way – Djinji – which is about 22km from Sila Kounda. I wonder what we will encounter on the river today…

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‘The Twins’ -packed and ready to go. Leaving the mines and Sila Kounda, River Gambia – heading to Djinji © Jason Florio click here or on image to view footage

As always, thanks for stopping by…more soon

Helen & Florio

Coming next…the fight for my paddle!

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H : “this is MY paddle!” Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

Camping on the roof of the village chief’s compound, Sila Kounda, Senegal, West Africa

Sunday December 16th – Sila Kounda, Senegal – 21.45km

I’m going to skip back a day or two, from our first major hippo encounter, to when we arrived at the village of Sila Kounda, paddling the canoes from our initial jump off point for the river section, in Kedougou – on our River Gambia Expedition - with a little stopping and getting out along the way.

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Young boys pose for a portrait on the banks of River Gambia in Senegal. They said they had painted their faces like skulls for their own amusement © Jason Florio

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Florio with his new friends, on the banks of the River Gambia, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio (screen grab from film footage)

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“Pass me the tapalapa, Ebou” our paddles doubled nicely as bread boards, River Gambia, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

Sila Kounda village, as with most villages we would paddle to on the journey, was situated about 1km from the riverbank. At first, we talked about camping on the bank and then walking up to the village to get supplies. However, a group of small boys playing by the river, said that they would go and fetch a donkey and cart so that we could haul our gear, including the canoes to the village.

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First up, the baggage – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Next up, the Ally canoes, Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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The donkeys must had a day off! Yousef and Ebou take the strain – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

When we got up to the village, and introded ourselves to the chief, it was a choice between pitching our tents on the outskirts of the compound, on the village rubbish dump, or on the roof of the chief’s very large house. Where the hell do we put the tent pegs in a concrete floor? However, as you can see, we managed, with the help of a couple of Peli cases to weight down the tent.

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H: “Flo, do you think Apple might sponsor are next expedition?” Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Drying cous cous, sweetcorn, rice, and groundnuts on the roof – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

Our view from the roof was the halal slaughtering of a huge cow. Apparently, someone from the village had just returned from The Hajj and a big celebration was underway. We watched as the cow’s throat was cut and its blood let to bleed into the ground around it. It fought hard, that cow. It took over 30 minutes to die – the whole time, moaning loudly, kicking out, and writhing around on the ground. It’s expansive chest heaving up and down. When it stilled, the man who’d cut its throat, approached the animal cautiously and yanked it’s tail – hard – I thought at first he was trying to pull it off! However, he was checking to see if it was dead. The big animal bucked out its hind legs, one more time, as the man almost fell over backwards, scrambling to get out of its way. Then, the cow went still – and stayed that way.

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Preparing the cow – and the ground – Sila Kounda © Jason Florio

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Halal’d – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Every single bit of the cow will be used – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

I knew then what would be in the family bowl that night for dinner…

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The food shot© Jason Florio

After we’d made camp, we went back to see the old chief. Ninety nine years old with an active mind – and a roguish twinkle in his eyes – of that of a much younger man. He had been village chief for over 30 years – as had his grandfather before him – and, as cow-hide trader, he had travelled all over West Africa. Florio presented him with a handful of kola nuts – the traditional greeting to chiefs in West Africa: ‘Silafando’ – a gift to you on behalf of my journey – which we had used on our Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’, in 2009.

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Florio gives ‘Sialfando’ to the chief – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio (screen grab from film footage)

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Chef de village, Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

We decided to spend a couple of days in the village because there was a gold mine, ’about 1km’ walk away, that we wanted to go and see. We set off, with the chief’s 12-year old grandson, Ibrahima, leading the way. Four kilometers and a tiny, barely-floating, dug-out canoe ride across the River Gambia later, we reached the mine…

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Ibrahima leads the way © Helen Jones-Florio

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H gets into the dug out with Yousef, River Gambia, Senegal – click here or on image to view footage

Next up: hanging out with the gold miners of Senegal.

See you soon!

The Florios

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A gold mine worker relaxes after a shift at an artisanal mine in Senegal on the banks of the River Gambia.© Jason Florio