Alkalo Jare Sowe, Felling Koto Village, The Gambia, West Africa.
11th November 2009 - Village#9
Award-winning portraits of village chiefs (Alkalo’s) and elders taken whilst on a 930km walk around the small West African country as part of ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush’
Alkalo Sowe is one of my all time favourite portraits from the whole expedition. He has such a beatific look on his face - almost as if he knows the answers to every question in the universe. The village was more like a hamlet, there being only a handful of tin-roofed houses. However, there seemed to be more children there than seemed possible to fit into the small number of houses. We suspected that they came from adjoining villages to check out the ‘toubabs’ (Mandinka word for Europeans and/or white people).
Florio and the team went off in search of groundnut hay for the donkeys, leaving me with the multitude of kids, assorted dogs, goats and sheep. I passed the time being shown how the young girls very adeptly wove the intricate fencing, made from Wah grass (a very durable, long reed-like grass that is used for a multitude of purposes). And, I also had to prove my cycling skills at the vociferous insistence of the kids, who didn’t believe a toubab (female, at that!) could actually ride a bicycle! So, I got onto a very rusty, wobbly ancient bike and proceeded to show my cycling skills - much to the delightful squeals of my young audience. I have to say, it was quite a feat trying to keep steady on the sandy ground and to save face by not falling off half the time I was on the bike!!
Jones - on behalf of the Short Walk team
Distance walked to-date: 216km