1. 'Silafando' - Award-winning portraits of village chiefs, 'Alkalos', and elders by Jason Florio

    Taken whilst on a 930km walk around the small West African country of The Gambia - 2009

  2. Acting Alkalo (village chief) Herouna Tonkara with his white horse, Suduwole, The Gambia, West Africa, Dec 2009

    Image © Jason Florio  from the award-winning series of portraits of Gambian Chiefs and Elders: ‘Silfando - a gift to you on behalf of my journey’


  3. Random Post of the Day from A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush - a 930km African Odyssey:

    Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 – Kerr Batch. Distance walked to-date: 659.24km – Sleeping amongst the ancestors.

    It’s been a really long walk today. We covered over 30km by the time we reach Kerr Batch, the home of more ancient stone circles, said to be the burial grounds of former kings.

    The stone circles are actually located a little further past the village itself. We stop in the village to ask directions and for the guys to go and buy cigarettes and phone cards. I’m impatient to get to the stones so that we can get settled in for the night. It’s already past 4pm, which means if we don’t hurry up we won’t be able to do the portrait of the alkalo (village chief) today. Flo, infuriatingly, tells me not to worry, ‘chill out’, as he can always do the photo in the morning. But then that will mean that we set off much later than usual – upsetting our whole routine. Why don’t we just hurry up and get a bloody move on!

    After twenty minutes of taking their time in the village, I decide to walk off ahead, in the direction of the stones. They can catch me up. The pathway takes me through open fields – a vast sense of space, which, right at that moment in time, makes me feel like the only person on the planet. And then ‘Nanga-tah, nanga-tah!’ (move). That’ll be Janneh with Neil, the donkey. I guess the team are right behind me.

    The gates to the compound that houses the stone circles of Kerr Batch is closed and locked when we reach them. However, within minutes of us standing outside, the watchman approaches us from a large building, to the left, inside the compound. He greets us and tells us he had been waiting for us. ‘Stone Man’, the watchman from Wassu stone circles, had called him on his mobile to tell him that we were on the way. Ah…the wonders of technology and how times have changed. The proliferation of mobile phone usage in The Gambia is pretty astounding, since my early days here.

    The watchman tells us that his father, Samba Camera, is the village chief of Kerr Batch and that he is one of the oldest chief’s in the country – at the grand old age of 79 years. The chief had arrived in the village during colonial times and had been in charge of the village for over nineteen years. Also, conveniently for us, he lived right next door to the stones.

    We ask him if we can camp in the compound, amongst the stones. He tells us that its not usually allowed but…if we are prepared to pay, he will let us – just this once. We negotiate him down to a much more mutually agreeable price than he initially asked for, and he opens the gate to let us in.

    The site is much smaller than Wassu and a more rural setting too. There is also a museum on the premises (the large building in the compound), which the watchman is particularly adamant that we take a look at - at a price, of course, despite the fact we had probably paid well over the odds to stay on the site.

    Although there was no running water (we could fill our containers up at the chiefs well, in his compound), there was a proper toilet block, attached to the museum – loo seats and all – something we rarely saw on the road. Apparently, a lot of tourist buses come through, to see the stones and the museum (which, incidentally, turned out to be really interesting and informative on the history of the stones and the surrounding area) and they had to be catered for. Just inside the doorway of the toilet block, there was a big bucket of water, for flushing and washing.

    We begin to set up camp, as Flo goes off with Samba to meet the chief and ask his permission to take his portrait. Although, his son, the watchman, assures us that this will be fine (I wonder if he’ll charge us for that too). Its definitely too late today, to shoot the portrait, so they’ll arrange to do it in the morning after all. Flo appeases me by saying that we only have to walk a short distance tomorrow – around 13km – to the next village where we will camp – so, even if we set off by 9am, we can be there by noon-1pm. “Lets just relax a bit, H, and enjoy having the stones to ourselves”. He is right. We are extremely fortunate to be in this situation – amongst these relics of the past.

    Later…it’s a full moon, the mosquitoes have gone on holiday, and we unroll our mattress on the ground, lie on our backs, and look up at the enormous full moon and a gazillion stars. There is a definite energy here, amongst these ancient stones – we all feel it and comment on it.

    As we lay there, commenting on the energy we all feel, Samba says that as long as we respect the stones (i.e. don’t climb all over them like the watchman’s kids did – jumping from one to the other!), we would be safe amongst them. ‘The Kings will look after us’ he says, in such reverential tones, that we have to stop ourselves from giggling.

    During the night, I got out of the tent a couple of times, just to look at the huge moon, the stones looking eerily as if they were backlit. It was so quiet. There’s definitely some indefinable, intangible energy here… whilst I didn’t feel exactly threatened by it, I did feel that there was something far bigger then I could even begin to perceive…

    To view the award-winning portraits of village chiefs and elders taken by Jason Florio, from the 930km walk around The Gambia, West Africa, please visit:


    Main image © Jason Florio - Children playing on ancient stone circles, Kerr Batch, The Gambia, West Africa - print available in various sizes - please contact helen.jones@floriophoto.com

  4. Road shots - the expedition team, taken by Jones - James Island, Juffereh, The Gambia, West Africa, 2009

    After Florio had taken the portrait of the female village chief, Tako Tall, her son Karamo, took us on a short boat ride out onto the Gambia River to James Island. Once used as a slave port, it contains the ruins of an old fort, Fort James.

    I had been here before, many years ago, and the size of the island is diminishing slowly  (daman ding, daman ding - mandinka)slowy, being reclaimed by the river. Its a beautifully haunting place……so much history……. so much fear, pain and anguish housed on that small island

    L-R: Momadou, Florio, Janneh & Samba

    Taken whilst on a ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush - 930km African odyssey’

    Image © Jones-Florio, 2009

    For Jason Florio’s award-winning portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders, please visit:



  5. New York Photography Awards -  Blog Entry-June 2010:
    'New York Photo Festival Awards' - Presenting Winners Slide Show - Jason Florio gets Fine Art 'Honorable Mention' for his majestic and painterly portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders from 'A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey'

    NYPhoto Festival Awards 2010 – Presents the Winners Slide show (from May 2010)

    Jason Florio ‘Honorable Mention’ – Fine Art Series


    Mission: NYPhoto10

    ‘The goal of the New York Photo Festival is to identify and document the future of photography in all its forms.

    Every year, a select group of internationally-respected curators are called upon to deliver their personal vision of the newest and most important trends in contemporary photography, each exhibited in their own pavilion and promising to draw the attention of the entire photographic community’

    General Categories:

    4. Fine Art – Image Series

    Winner – J Carrier
    Honorable Mentions – Aaron Vincent Elkaim & Jason Florio

    We are very happy that all that hard work (especially on our feet!) is paying off – Florio’s beautiful images of the amazing people we met along the way, on our journey in The Gambia, are gaining recognition and being seen. Please check out his website for the whole series of Village Chiefs and Elders  ‘A 930km African Odyssey’ www.floriophoto.com (’Projects’ section) from ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush’, West Africa.

  6. Matt Smith of ‘The Gambia Blog’ review Florio’s colour portraits of village chiefs and elders

    April 13th 2010: ‘Jason’s style is unique – his use of the black screen has at once something of a distancing effect, yet the images become like naked singularities, events almost. They’re quite something….‘ Matt Smith – The Gambia Blog (The Gambia Experience http://www.gambia.co.uk/)

    Image: Florio-2009-The Gambia

  7. Blog Entry: 2nd Jan 2010 Jason Florio’s sublime new colour portraits of Gambian village chiefs (Alkalo’s) and elders

    Just three of around 35 stunning portraits that Florio took of the Alkalo’s and elders whilst on our Short Walk in The Gambian Bush expedition in West Africa.

    If you want to see them in all their glory, then please check the website  http://www.floriophoto.com/#/projects/930km%20african%20odyssey/1 

    More updates and images to feast your eyes to come so please keep checking in!


    Jones & Florio

  8. The traditional Gambian Alkalo (village chief) system ‘Silafando’ - as used by ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush’ expedition team +  a list of all the villages and Alkalo’s who hosted the team, during the 930km walk around The Gambia, West Africa in November-December 2009

    All the villages we approached each day kindly permitted our raggle-taggle, road-weary team turn up, unannounced, and pitch our small camp every evening.This was mainly due to the fact that we used the age old tradition and protocol for approaching the Alkalo’s. 

    If you are approaching as a stranger and/or traveler and asking something from them, it requires you to give them a ‘silafando’ (translates as ‘a present on behalf of my journey’) of kola nuts.  Once accepted, you are warmly welcomed into the village and everyone knows that you are there as a guest of the Alkalo, which also means you are treated with respect as strangers in the village during your stay (if anyone were to disrespect that, then they would have the Alkalo to answer to and the shame that this brings on the family).

    Following is a list of all the villages that we stayed in during our 930km walk around the small West African country of The Gambia, along with the name of the village chief, elder or ‘acting’ Alkalo (i.e. if the Alkalo is sick or traveling, they will often appoint a deputy to take charge in his/her absence)

    *‘Alhaji’ where pre-fixed to names indicates that the Alkalo has made the haj to Mecca

    November 2009:

    November 2009 Monday 2nd – Alkalo – Duta Fofana (and his son, Lamin), Pirangue

    Tuesday 3rd – Village Elder (on behalf of Alkalo), – Bachary Sanyang, Bouluk

    Wednesday 4th – Alkalo – Sirrifo Colley, Killy

    Thursday 5th – Alkalo – Malamin Bojang, Sanganjor

    Friday 6th – Alkalo – Landing Jammeh, Kalagi (Tamba Kunda)

    Saturday 7th – Alkalo – Sunkary Sanyang (female), Tendaba

    Sunday 8th – day off at Tendaba Camp

    Monday 9th – Alkalo  – Ala Sana Sanneh, Genierie

    Tuesday 10th – Alkalo – Alhaji Kabiru, Jappineh

    Wednesday 11th – Alkalo – Jare Sowe, Falleng Koto

    Thursday 12th – Alkalo’s son – Jiki Bayai, Sotokoi

    Friday 13th – day off at The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, Sambel Kunda

    Saturday 14th – day off at The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, Sambel Kunda

    Sunday 15th – Alkalo – Lamin ‘Nyamo’ Ceesay, Brikama Ba

    Monday 16th – day off at Bird Safari Camp (thanks to Mark), Janjanbureh

    Tuesday 17th – day off at Bird Safari Camp, Janjanbureh

    Wednesday 18th – Alkalo – Kebba Kora, Bansang

    Thursday 19th – Alkalo – Bayo Drammeh, Bakadadgy

    Friday 20th – Alkalo – Fatou Dansou (female), Kabba Kamma (Basse)

    Saturday 21st – day off in Kabba Kamma (Basse)

    Sunday 22nd – Alkalo – Alhaji Mohammadou Tonkara, Sudou Wole

    Monday 23rd – Alkalo’s son – Chima May Gumaneh, Koina (half way point!)

    Tuesday 24th – Alkalo – Madinding Dabbo, Brifu

    Wednesday 25th – Alkalo – Ebrahima Touray, Chamoi Bunda

    Thursday 26th – Alkalo – Dadi Bah, Tuba Dabbo

    Friday 27th – day off in Tuba Dabbo with Mr Bah the Marabout

    Saturday 28th – Alkalo – Maduma Ceesay, Sami Surwa Kunda

    Sunday 29th – Alkalo – Kasum Sosuso, Demba Kali

    Monday 30th – Alkalo – Dam Sallah, Kerr Sait Maram

    December 2009:

    December 2009 – Tuesday 1st – Alkalo – Seedy Bensouda, Kuntaur (near Wassu stone circles)

    Wednesday 2nd – Alkalo – Samba Camera, Kerr Batch (stone circles)

    Thursday 3rd – Alkalo – Gibbi Cham, Chamen

    Friday 4th – Alkalo – Alhaji Abdou Touray, Balangar Bental

    Saturday 5th – Alkalo – Lamin Dibba, Farafenni

    Sunday 6th – day off in Farafenni (at ‘Eddies Place’)

    Monday 7th – Alkalo – Alhaji Karambah Minteh, Minteh Kunda

    Tuesday 8th – Haddi Panneh (female), Njawara

    Wednesday 9th – Alkalo – Masanneh Cham, Chamen Sosseh

    Thursday 10th – Alkalo – Tako Taal (female), Juffureh/Albreda

    Friday 11th – Alkalo – Alhaji Kenbugul Fye, Barra

    Saturday 12th – HOME – Makasutu Culture Forest (thank you James English and Lawrence Williams!!)

    To see Florio’s award-winning series of colour portraits of the chiefs and elders, please visit his website http://www.floriophoto.com/#/projects/930km%20african%20odyssey/1 

    Flo with the imam at Sanganjor

    #2 Afamadou Sanyang, a farmer from the village of Generie, teaches Flo how to really wear his Afghan scarf!

    Main image: Florio-2009 Florio, hanging with Alkalo Jare Sowe of Felling Koto

    Image #2: Jones-2009 – Florio with Afamadou Sanyang

  9. Florio enjoys tea with the Alkalo (village chief) and elders, in the village of Bakadadgy,The Gambia, West Africa (whilst Jones puts the tent up!!)

    Flo and the alkalo's in Bakadadgy,The Gambia

    Once the ’silafando’ (the giving of the Kolla nuts to the Alkalo of the village) has been given, the men sit around, drinking atayah green tea, whilst putting the world to rights……perhaps? I wouldn’t know, because, being a woman, I am not privy to these little gatherings.  It seems lot of this kind sitting around, by the men folk, is done in The Gambia. And Florio seemed to quite enjoy it too– especially if his muso (’wife’) puts the tent up in the meantime!

    Image: Jones- The Gambia – 2009

  10. 'A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush' expedition team pitch their camp in the Wolof tribe village of Balanghar Bental, on their 930km walk around the small West African country of The Gambia, 2009

    Blog entry: 4th December 2009

    Image: L-R: Janneh, Jones, Alkalo Abdouli Touray, 1st Wife, Sister-in-law & mother, Florio, Samba + assorted Wolof kids!

    Distance walked to-date: 703.59