From our 2009 expedition ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’, we shot this footage when we stayed with Alkalo (village chief) Landing Jammeh of Khalaji village – who can be seen in the video (tall man, wearing a blue and white grand bubu – and pictured below) kindly ‘assisting’ Florio whilst he made a portrait of the neighbouring Alkalo, Julu Sanyang.
The photo shoot resulted in what became an award-winning body of work for Florio – called ‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey’ : the traditional method of greeting village chiefs and elders, when you meet them and ask something from them (in our case, to ask permission to camp in their villages and for Florio to make the portraits). We found out about this cultural tradition from one of our team mates, Samba Leigh, when we arrived in The Gambia, to prep for the walk.
Excerpt from Helen Jones-Florio’s forthcoming book ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – minty abanta!’:
‘Nevertheless, and more importantly as it turned out, Samba introduced us to the traditional intricacies of ‘Silafando’. The age-old tradition was something that we were not aware of and perhaps would never have been, but for Samba’s cultural knowledge on local protocol and tradition. “We need to plan our route so that we arrive in a village at the end of each day of walking” he told us “then we have to ask the permission of the Alkalo (the village chief) if we can set up our camp in his compound or in the village”. Protocol dictates that the Alkalo has a duty to welcome travelers and strangers, but only after the correct procedure is followed. This is what is known as ‘Silafando’ – which roughly translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey’ and involves presenting the village chief with a gift – traditionally, a handful of kola nuts; bitter, walnut sized nuts. These nuts play an important roll in Gambian traditional culture and social life. Once the gift is given, the Alkalo shares them with his closest village elders. They break open the nuts and chew them. They are valued for their apparent pharmacological properties – acting as a natural stimulant and, allegedly, as an aphrodisiac.’
To find out how you can get involved in ‘An Exchange’ – and get one of Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints, please check the photographer (and River Gambia Expedition 2012 co-leader) himself on Youtube:
More updates, photos and stories coming soon…
The Florios (Helen & Flo)