Gambia road

I was in magical Gambia a couple of weeks ago. It felt like we were very far from home when we were bumping along a dirt track in a jeep through a tiny village near Makasutu in endless sunshine. Everything was orange, the floor the walls (even the Jeep) then all of a sudden things got a bit more interesting…

I pointed the paintings on the wall to Dawada, our guide. I told him that the art reminded me of my three favourite places to live in the world: Bristol, London and Brighton. I explained how popular street art was there. Then I spotted this by Roa:

Everyone looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I knew who painted it. I even questioned myself, of all the places in the world I didn’t expect to see UK art here. More and more familiar looking work popped up including paintings by a Billy + Alex, Know Hope. My old iphone was useless in Jeep conditions so I jumped out to get a non-blurry pic. Here’s me with David Shillinglaw:

David Shillinglaw art in Gambia

A couple of days later we headed to Makasutu River Lodge to visit the forest. I really loved this work that sits at the entrance to the forest:

(I’d love to know who did these paintings so if you do, please let me know)

What I discovered this day was that the man with the dog is James English. James English and Lawrence Williams were an uncle and nephew partnership who settled in Makasutu in 1992 after negotiating a deal with the neighbouring village to protect the patch of forest in return for permission to live and work there. Their work, and dedication to the Makasutu Forest and sustainable tourism in The Gambia’ is truly admirable and well loved by the people we met.

Wide Open Walls, was started by Lawrence Wiliams in 2009, it’s a beautiful way to unite people, raise awareness for tourism and celebrate the life long work of James English who passed away in 2011.

Such a fascinating story and history of the area unfolded from spotting paintings I could have easily have missed if I was looking out the left side of the jeep. I totally fell in love with Gambia, I really encourage you to pay a visit to the village and the forest, I’ve sincerely never met so many lovely people in week.

Wide Open Walls was a stunning reminder of how art brings people together, conjures memories and how it can make you feel at home wherever you are. It really was the best street art show I’ve seen in this small world…

There’s a lot more to see here on the Wide Open Walls Facebook page

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