FEATURED WORK: “THE GAMBIA – VICTIMS AND RESISTERS” BY JASON FLORIO
“He who feels it, knows it”
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 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, now four years in the making 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.
Born in London, Jason Florio is an award-winning photographer currently based in Malta. For the past 15 years, he has worked as a freelance photojournalist around the globe for publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Newsweek among others. Over his career, Jason has primarily documented under-reported stories about people living on the margins of society and human rights, which earned him a number of awards, including The Magnum Photography Award 2017 for his work on migration. His work is held in many public and private collections and has been showed in solo and group exhibitions around the globe.