documentary

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ the Gambia. The story so far…

It’s been an incredibly momentous, emotional – and active – few months here in the Gambia, West Africa. Since we got back at the beginning of January, we’ve held two photographic exhibitions of the portraits from our on-going body of work, ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters of a regime

'Portraits for Positive Change' Kafo Bayo - arrested on April 14th, 2016 during a peaceful demonstration for electoral reform © Jason Florio
Former seaman, Masoner and political activist Kafo Bayo was arrested, tortured and jailed at Mile 2 prison after being arrested during the April 14th, 2016 protests for electoral reform in the Gambia – For three days, I did not know who I was, or where I was…my clothes were like, you know, a butchers shirt…covered in blood…KB ©Jason Florio

‘Portraits to Remember’
Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations – March 5th, 2019
With the kind support of the Goethe Institute

Ya Mammie Ceesay stands next to the portrait of herself, ‘Portraits to Remember’ exhibition, Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations ©Jason Florio
Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations – ‘Portraits to Remember’ Exhibition, the Gambia ©Jason Florio

‘Portraits for Positive Change’
British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul – May 21st, 2019
With the kind support of the British High Commission

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ – British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul, the Gambia ©Jason Florio


Photo Exhibit Documents Jammeh’s Reign of Terror
– The Chronicle

“What I learned from the interviews with victims is the range of abuses and atrocities that happened here during the 22 years of Jammeh. I have been coming to The Gambia for 20 years and I heard about things happening in the past but I had no idea about the range of abuses, including the use of forced medication, people forced to take HIV treatments. The tourists that came here had no idea about what was going on. Even I as a journalist who been here many times had no idea about what was really going on The Gambia,” Jason told The Chronicle.

Portraits for Positive Change’ – British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul, the Gambia © Jason Florio

Portraits for Positive Change’ – British High Commissioners Residence, Banjul, the Gambia © Jason Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Victim of rape and beatings by Gambian security forces, The Gambia - portrait by Jason Florio
Bintu was detained for five days, beaten and raped by three masked security officers at the Gambia Police Intervention Unit (PIU) HQ, after being arrested during a May 9th 2016 rally to demand the release of illegally detained protesters from previous rallies held on April 15th/16th, 2016. When asked if she would prefer that we keep her identity anonymous her adamant reply was “No, this was done to me, and I want justice…these men should be punished” From the series ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime’ ©Jason Florio

#NeverAgainGambia

23rd May 2019, the ‘Portraits for Positive Change’ exhibition was donated, by the British High Commission, to the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), to be used as a tool for advocacy and awareness during their outreach programs around The Gambia. The aim of which is to create a dialogue within communities, to help sensitise people on the plight of the victims – emphasising the importance of victims to come forward and engage in the TRRC process.

British High Commissioner, Sharon Wardle, and the TRRC’s Vice Chairperson, Adelaide Sosseh Gaye © Jason Florio

“Coming to terms with the legacy of the recent past provides the Gambian people an opportunity to reconcile and regain the hope and optimism for the future they so deserve” Sharon Wardle – British High Commissioner to The Gambia

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ – donated to the TRRC by the British High Commission. Images © Jason Florio

The truth will set you free…

The next step… which the portraits have already embarked on, is to take the exhibition further, into the international arena. First stop: the portraits were chosen by LensCulture Portrait Awards, in April.

The next step… which the portraits have already embarked on, is to take the exhibition further, into the international arena. First stop: the portraits were chosen by LensCulture Portrait Awards, in April

LensCulture Portrait Awards 2019 – Jason Florio Finalist

And, on May 27th-29th they will be digitally exhibited – on 10ftx10ft screens – at the Oslo Freedom Forum festival.

The Oslo Freedom Forum is a transformative annual conference where the world’s most engaging human rights advocates, artists, tech entrepreneurs, and world leaders meet to share their stories and brainstorm ways to expand freedom and unleash human potential across the globe.

Where to next…the story is not over, yet.

Jason Florio

Follow me on Instagram @jasonflorio / @floriotravels for regular updates

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ exhibition handover to the TRRC. L-R: https://photostellstories.org/about/Helen Jones-Florio, Essa Jallow, Communications Specialist TRRC, Jason Florio

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May 2019 – Currently working in The Gambia on:

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

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Cover shot ©Jason Florio for FD Persoonlijk Magazine

Editorial Cover shot © Jason Florio for FD Persoonlijk Magazine 'Environment & Climate - the resurrection of Han Stiphout'
Cover shot © Jason Florio for FD Persoonlijk Magazine ‘Environment & Climate – the resurrection of Han Stiphout’

Ten years ago Han Stiphout (64) had two castles in Limberg and a bid for his company of more €20 million. Just before the sale, he went bankrupt. Now he is picking up again and building recycling plants in The Gambia and Senegal words by Hella Hueck / FD Persoonlijk Magazine – all images © Jason Florio

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April 2019 – Currently working in The Gambia on:

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChange

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Jason Florio – Finalist Portrait Awards 2019 LensCulture ‘The Gambia: Victims and Resisters’

Finalist Portrait Awards 2019 LensCulture ‘The Gambia: Victims and Resisters’ – Portraits © Jason Florio

The Gambia: Victims and Resisters

JASON FLORIO

Finalist 
Portrait Awards 2019 – LensCulture

Great news – my ongoing project in collaboration with Helen Jones-Florio , victims and resisters of the former Gambian regime under Yahya Jammeh, made the Finalists in the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2019. Big congratulations to all the other Winners, Jurors’ Picks, Finalists and thanks to LensCulture and the esteemed jurors.

Jason Florio – making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia – image, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio meets Mustapha, who was shot in the back during peaceful student protests, in the Gambia, April 2000 – making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia – image © Helen Jones-Florio

The Gambia, West Africa is a popular winter-sun holiday destination for Europeans. But, most tourists know very little about the dark and shattered underbelly of ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa,’ as the Gambia is fondly called. From 1994 to 2017, President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia as his own fiefdom, crushing dissent and opposition with brutality… read more/LensCulture.

24-year-old, Amie, a kindergarten teacher was part of a peaceful protest in 2016 when she was picked up by members of the former Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh’s, security forces. She was held incommunicado for 10 days at one of their detention sites. She was subjected to beatings with steel pipes and regularly doused in freezing water. One of her fellow protestors was subjected not only to the beatings but to gang rape by three masked police officers…

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Amie Bayo - portrait, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio 'Gambia - Victims and Resisters of a Regime',
Amie Bayo – portrait © Jason Florio ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime


See more from this on-going series on Florio’s website

Watch the short documentary, about Gambia’s human rights defenders, made for Amnesty International, ‘We Never Gave Up – stories of courage in Gambia’

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April 2019 – Currently working in The Gambia on:

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChangefloriophoto.com

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Victims of Jammeh – portraits by Jason Florio

13 year old Bintu looking at a picture on her phone of Lamin Tunkara, the father she never met© Jason Florio

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters of a regime’

Bintu – the 13-year-old daughter of Adama Conteh and Lamin Tunkara. Adama was 7 Months pregnant with Bintu and married less than a year when Lamin was murdered in July 2005. He was part of a group of more than 50 Ghanaians and other West African migrants bound for Europe killed by Gambian security forces, known as the Junglers, who accused the migrants  of being mercenaries who wanted to overthrow President Yahya Jammeh.


“The West African migrants weren’t murdered by rogue elements, but by a paramilitary death squad taking orders from Gambia’s President Jammeh,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Jammeh’s subordinates then destroyed key evidence to prevent international investigators from learning the truth.” HRW.


Shortly before his murder, Lamin was arrested and moved from one police station to another. At each of the two stations, his wife was allowed, each day, to take him food. However, around a week into his detention, Lamin suddenly disappeared from the second police station.  A heavily pregnant Adama went to every police station, and prison in the Gambia, looking for him –  ‘no one knows him here’, she was repeatedly told. “I did not eat or wash for one week…my family was worried (for the health of her unborn child)”. She searched for Lamin for over a year – “he loved me, he took care of me…I could not believe the rumors that he was dead”. She even went to the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters and was warned off  – ‘go home if you do not want any trouble…stay and you will have trouble’.

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Thirteen years later, Ghanaian, Martin Kyere, the sole known survivor of the 2005 massacre, returned to the Gambia for the first time since the killings to tell Adama what had happened to her husband, Lamin. It was only then that she, and Lamin’s father, fully accepted that Lamin was dead.

Words by Helen Jones-Florio

Jason Florio photographs Adama Conteh and her daughter, Bintu, the Gambia, West Africa ©Helen Jones-Florio

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Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime‘ in The Gambia, West Africa

#Portraits4PositiveChange

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