The Gambia - Victims and Resisters
The Gambia, West Africa, is a popular winter-sun holiday destination, but many tourists are not aware of the recent dark history of 'The Smiling Coast of Africa' - as it is fondly known. From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled The Gambia as his fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition with brutality. His hit squad, the 'Junglers' and National Intelligence Agency carried out tortures, assassinations, and acts of sexual violence with impunity - journalists were gunned down and disappeared, students were shot in cold blood, and even his cousins were murdered on his order.
In fear of retribution under Jammeh’s autocratic rule Gambians were denied free speech, but upon Jammeh’s exile in 2017, the country started on a path of transitional justice. The photographs and testimonies are part of the ongoing journey to give face, and a voice, for the first time in 22 years, to those who survived horrific human rights abuses, to the families who lost loved ones and to those who resisted.
Many die-hard Jammeh supporters are still in denial of the litany of crimes he and his cadre are now being accused of, and a number of the perpetrators walk freely among the populace. Collaborating closely with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), the ongoing project has become a travelling exhibition used as part of their outreach work around the country as a tool for dialogue around human rights, transitional justice, and national healing, as well as becoming a historical record for the future generations.
Since 2016 we have photographed over one-hundred portraits, personal artefacts and sites of violations along with recorded testimonies. Early in the project, it became apparent that many people who sat for the portraits found it cathartic as previously they had been unable to tell their stories openly. Therefore, our work took on additional and profound meaning by making it a collaborative process with those we photographed.
Jason Florio + Helen Jones-Florio
The work has been generously supported by
British High Commission - Banjul
The Goethe Institute
UNDP - Banjul
International Coalition of Sites of Conscience
and in collaboration with ANEKED, and the National Centre for Arts and Culture, Banjul
Photoville - THE FENCE 2020
LensCulture Awards 2019 | El Pais feature story 2020 | Open Society Foundation | International Photography Awards 2020