Gambia - Victims and Resisters

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The Gambia - Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

To face the past, victims and resisters of the Jammeh regime come forward - #Portraits4PositiveChange

In a global political climate where authoritarian rule is on the rise - where autocratic leaders crush dissent, and opposition, with brutality and little or no regard for human rights - it is essential to keep telling the stories of those who suffered, and those who bravely resisted - who were often one and the same. 

'Gambians deserve justice, freedom, and peace' African Fabric Shop - Magie & Bob, GFM donors

Your support will enable us to continue our work, to create an extensive body of portraits of the victims and resisters of the 22-year brutal dictatorship of the Yahya Jammeh’s regime, as a tool for positive change and advocacy... please read on to find out why this is so important...

34271368_1541523829445477_r.jpegJason Florio photographs Ballo Kanteh - an ex-political prisoner, he shows the burns he suffered after melted plastic was dripped onto his skin by Jammeh's hit-squad, the Junglers. Kanteh spent 18-year detention at the notorious Mile 2 prison  - for the first two years, he was held in solitary confinement in a pitch dark cell, which has permanently damaged his eyesight. Image © Helen Jones-Florio 


Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio :  Having worked as documentary photographers in the Gambia for almost 20 years, in the shadow of the dictatorship of President Yahya Jammeh, we knew the dangers, not just for us - but, most especially for Gambians who bravely dared to challenge the often brutal regime. 

'Thank you for creating a memory of recent history, a work we can all (should) learn from' Photographer, Michel Delsol, GFM donor

In the latter part of 2016, we crossed the border into Senegal and began photographing and collecting the stories of victims of the Jammeh regime who had fled into hiding there  - some with their families -  fearing for their lives. 

34271368_1541509804940196_r.jpegFatoumatta Sandeng, daughter of murdered Gambian opposition party member, Solo Sandeng. She escaped into exile in Senegal after her father's murder in 2016 at the hands of Jammeh's security services, fearful they would be targeted next. A year after her father's murder, and Jammeh's exile, the perpetrators came forth and disclosed the secret forest grave of her father -
Image © Jason Florio   (Senegal, 2016)


A few short months later, after Jammeh’s forced flight into exile, we were able to work freely for the first time as photojournalists, in The Gambia, and so we began to make portraits of the victims and resisters of the regime, who now felt safe enough to come forward. 

As photojournalists, our aim is not just to document and create a record of events but to use our photographs as a tool for positive change and advocacy - giving a platform for the victims and their families, where they can be seen, heard, and honoured. 

The portraits will be used as a tool in the reconciliation process to help the people of the
 Smiling Coast of Africa, as the Gambia is fondly called, to come together and heal, through:

- A billboard publicity campaign in the Gambia

- Exhibitions in the Gambia (the first is scheduled for Jan 21st, 2019, the anniversary of Jammeh's departure) – and internationally

- Local and international media attention

Education for future generations 
In the theme of ‘We, Will Never Forget’, the portraits and stories of the victims will form an archive for future generations of Gambians, to preserve their history. 

34271368_154152435320419_r.jpegSainey MK Marenah a dissident Gambian journalist who was the senior correspondent for The Standard newspaper. He was jailed and acquitted after he wrote a story about young supporters of President Jammeh who had defected to the opposition. Despite his acquittal, Jammeh's National Intelligence Agency continued to threaten him, forcing him to flee into exile in neighbouring Senegal ©Jason Florio  (Senegal 2016)


We need your help
Your support will enable us to continue our work, to create an extensive body of portraits of the victims – our goal for this next mission to the Gambia is to produce 100 to 150 portraits over a 6 week period (beginning Dec 2018 -Jan 2019) for #Portraits4PositiveChange

January 2017 - Deposed dictator, Jammeh, leaves the Gambia for exile in Equatorial Guinea. 
Image © Jason Florio 'Gambia Has Decided' 

                            Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia for 22 years and vowed, 
                                                "I will rule for a billion years if Allah wills it"

A brief history of Jammeh’s time in power
From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia, West Africa, as his own personal fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition, with brutality. His personal hit squad and intelligence agency carried out tortures, and assassinations with impunity - journalists were gunned down and disappeared, ministers were jailed, students shot in cold blood, and even his own brother and sister were murdered on his order. 

Since Jammeh's exile, over 1000 victims have registered with the 'Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations', a non-profit created by victims to advocate for truth, justice, and reconciliation for all victims whose rights were violated by the Jammeh regime. 

Sarjo Manneh, holding a picture of his son, Chief Ebrima Manneh, with President Yahya Jammeh. Chief wrote an article about term lengths for Gambian presidency, and soon afterwards he was abducted and later murdered, informants said, on Jammeh's instructions. To this day, his body has never been found - Image © Jason Florio


34271368_1541524763325151_r.jpegNgoi Njie was picked up by Gambia's feared NIA and tortured along with other Gambians who were protesting on April 14th, 2016 for electoral reform, including activist Solo Sandeng whose tragic death she witnessed at the hands of Yahya Jammeh's hit squad known as the Junglers ©Jason Florio 


Why this means so much to us
This project is especially close to our hearts as, after 20 years we consider the Gambia our second home, and we have many friends and acquaintances who have suffered, and lost loved ones, under Jammeh's ruthless autocracy. This work is an opportunity for us to give back to a country and a people whom we have grown very close to  - now that we too can speak freely, without risk of retribution, we feel it's essential that these stories are heard. 

We will personally cover our time and living costs, for 6 weeks whilst in the Gambia, but we are kindly asking for support to cover the bare bones expenses only - even a $5 donation will help us get closer to our goal. Your donations will enable us to gather and share these incredibly important stories, to support the victims and their campaign to bring Jammeh to justice . 

With your help, we will be back in the Gambia to begin working on the portraits by 1st December 2018

#Portraits4PositiveChange - Expenses:

Return Flights x 2 – London-Banjul

Local fixers/translators/researchers - Gambia

Local transcriber - Gambia

Local accommodation - Gambia

Local transport (car/driver/fuel) - Gambia

Portrait prints - a gift - for each subject we photograph (100-150 people)

Exhibition printing

*To keep costs down, we won't be offering any fancy gifts. BUT, if you supply us with your contact details, when you make your donation, we will send you a hand-made postcard, all the way from the Gambia*

34271368_1541524939324356_r.jpegThe wife and son of Harouna Jammeh, who was murdered along with his sister on the orders of his brother, former president Yahya Jammeh. Harouna's daughter, Ayeshah Jammeh, has since co-founded the 'Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations' - Image ©Jason Florio 


Please help to spread the word
For any support –however small - we will be eternally grateful. Furthermore, we need all the help we can get. So, even if you aren’t in a position to donate, then your support in sharing this with your friends, on social media - Facebook, Twitter, etc. – would be amazing and much appreciated!

We'll keep you updated on a regular basis

Thank you so much / abaraka bakeh!

Jason & Helen

A little bit about the two of us:

Jason Florio 
Is an award-winning photojournalist - he was the recipient of a Magnum Photography Award 2017 for his extensive body of work on migration: 'Destination Europe ' - filmmaker, and writer.  His focus has been towards under-reported stories about people living on the margins of society and human rights. 

Helen Jones-Florio 
Is a photographer, producer, videographer,  and writer.  She has been travelling to West Africa for almost 20 years. She co-led, with Jason, the first recorded circumnavigation of theGambia by foot  and the first recorded source-seaRiver Gambia expedition . She is the co-founder of the ‘Photos Tell Stories' photography workshops, and has created and produced extensive content for their expedition  blogs.

Let's Get Social:
Twitter -floriophotoNYC 
Instagram -  @jasonflorio  / @floriotravels 
Facebook -  Jason Florio  / PhotosTellStories


Helen & Jason Florio - Photo credit: Marcin Seweryn Andrzejewski , the Gambia, 2017
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Hi everyone, apologies for the delay in sharing the exhibition opening night news! We've been so busy since we got back to the Gambia, pre- and post-exhibition opening night.

The opening night was a great success - way beyond what we hoped for. Many of the subjects - who we have photographed and filmed their testimonies over the last couple of years - came along, plus various Ambassadors (UK, USA, Holland), and Gambian dignitaries. Also, commissioners from the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) - which is now in motion, hearing the testimonies of those who suffered horrific human rights violations under the former regime of Yahya Jammeh. We hope to be working with more closely with the TRRC, as time goes on.

Your generous support has played a huge part in getting us to this point, it also means that we can move forward - to document more testimonies - and, if all goes well, we will achieve our goal to take the exhibition around the Gambia, and much further. More on that, as and when we have news.

As ever, we are immensely grateful to you all.
Jason & Helen ❤️

To see more photos from the opening night, please visit our blog: https://photostellstories.org/2019/03/11/gambia-photography-exhibition-opening-night-portraits-to-remember-victims-and-resisters/

Follow us on Instagram from daily updates @floriotravels / @jasonflorio
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It's the eve before the exhibition opening and we are working non-stop to get the show just right. Next, the captions to print out, and the lighting to think about... we will be burning the midnight oil tonight, I'm sure.

We wish you could be here. Therefore, we post photos in the next couple of days so that you can see how the opening went.

Huge thanks, as always, for your support.
Love, Jason & Helen ❤️

Follow us on Instagram for daily updates @jasonflorio @floriotravels
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Exciting news! The date is set for the first exhibition of the 'Gambia - Victims and Resisters of a Regime', to be held, very fittingly, in The Gambia. We wish you could all be there, to thank you in person for your very generous support, and words of encouragement, in helping us make this body of work. However, we will be sure to share images with you from the exhibition, here on GFM and our other social media platforms.

Exhibition opening night: Tuesday, 5th March

Venue: The Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, Kololi, Senegambia

Time: 5pm-9pm

Despite the exhibition, the journey continues for us here in the Gambia, to give a voice - a face - to those who suffered, and lost loved-ones, under the former regime. And, we hope to take the exhibition far and wide, both in-country, and Internationally.

As always, heartfelt thanks
Jason and Helen

Follow us on Instagram for regular updates @jasonflorio @floriotravels @doors_facades_florio (#StoriesBehindDoors #GambiaDoors)
Twitter @floriophotoNYC
FB: https://www.facebook.com/floriophotostellstories/
Blog: https://photostellstories.org/
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February 18th, 2019 - Happy Independence Day, Gambia!

During the early months of 2017, we were in the Gambia, witnessing decisive change. We were at Banjul airport to watch the ousted president, Yahya Jammeh (after 22 years of harsh dictatorship), depart the country for exile in Equatorial Guinea. On January 26th, we were back at the airport again, along with tens of thousands of rapturous people!, to welcome the newly elected President Adama Barrow. He was arriving back home from Senegal after a brief self-imposed exile, for his own safety, when Jammeh refused to accept his defeat.

Then, on Independence Day, February 18th, 2017, President Adama Barrow was finally sworn in on home soil (he had officially been sworn in at the Gambian Embassy, in Dakar, on 19th January 2017).

Momentous and euphoric times, indeed, in the Gambia's history, which we feel highly honoured to have witnessed.

We wanted to share some of the images from this incredible period in early 2017.

Our Gambia exhibition news - and your invite - is coming in our next update. Watch this space! You have all helped to make this possible. For which we are truly thankful.

Jason and Helen ❤️

Follow us on Instagram for regular photo updates @jasonflorio @floriotravels @doors_facades-florio (#StoriesBehindDoors, #GambiaDoors)

Images © Jason Florio (#1-2) & Helen Jones-Florio (#3)
1. Mass celebrations on the streets in the Gambia as Adama Barrow is officially sworn in Senegal
2. A group of Gambian's record the inauguration on TV, in the Gambia
3. The band wait for Barrow to arrive to be sworn in, on home soil, at Independence Stadium, Bakau

#GambiaHasDecided - images by Jason Florio https://floriophoto.com/STORIES/IRIN-News----gambia-has-decided/1/caption
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Raised by 70 people in 4 months
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