This travelogue will document our journey from the UK to the Gambia with the Banjul Challenge 2018 and explore the human rights issues affecting the countries we travel through.
Two years ago, four intrepid friends Peter, Angela, Karsten and Daniel decided to join forces to take part in the Banjul challenge just for a "bit of fun"! What started as a light hearted conversation has evolved into a full blown mad project involving two rusty old vans, a documentary film and a human rights campaign.
The Banjul challenge is the longest banger rally in the world. Teams leave the UK every December and head south through Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal, arriving in Banjul in The Gambia. The journey is approximately 3700 mile and crosses the Sahara desert. On arrival all the rally vehicles are auctioned in aid of the Gambian National Olympic Committee (GNOC) and the association of Small scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET) who each receive 20% of the funds raised and the balance is distributed among local small businesses, NGOs, schools, etc.
Our team is also raising funds for Amnesty International . We have already made a video-van installation which will be on display at Hauser and Wirth Somerset 26th October 2018 alongside Ai Weiwei's documentary film "Human Flow". Having completed the Banjul challenge, we hope to develop this format by showing the resulting documentary in galleries, film festivals and street corners to continue raising awareness about the current human right issues affecting cultural minorities and displaced communities in the countries that we travelled through.
Morocco: since 1975, the Sahrawi people have struggled to gain independence from Morocco. The Sahrawi people have been displaced from their lands to refugee camps in one of the most inhospitable areas of the planet in southern Algeria. The moroccan government has imposed a de facto ban on research missions by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch since 2015.
Mauritania: In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery. However it took another 26 years for the Mauritanian government to pass a law allowing slaveholders to be prosecuted.
Senegal: One of the most prevalent forms of slavery in Senegal takes the form of forced child begging in Koranic schools.The children must work for long hours and hand over their income. Children who are forced to beg are commonly beaten if they fail to meet their begging quotas.
The Gambia: Since 2016 the human rights climate in Gambia has improved dramatically. The new government has promised to make Gambia the “human rights capital of Africa,” it has released scores of political prisoners, and has begun to strengthen the judiciary and reform the security services.
Meet the team:
Peter Shields has been talking about the Banjul challenge for about 10 years. As his mid life crisis developed, he finally decided to commit in order to avoid further procrastination. He is a teacher and lecturer who has travelled in Europe, The Middle east, Africa and South America, but never with the degree of uncertainty and lack of guaranteed arrival that the Banjul Challenge presents. Currently dabbling in film making, he hopes to make his first competent documentary ( on behalf of Amnesty International's campaigns in North West Africa) with his friend and co-driver Daniel. In the spirit of existentialism, it's at least a chance to do something with a greater degree of authenticity than life might typically present. After all, what could go wrong, and why would it matter?
Angela is East-German and lives in the UK. "My beloved partner-in-life Peter had spoken of undertaking this specific challenge for years. It was never really the plan that I would be part of it but here we are, together with our wonderful friends Daniel and Karsten, we make a small but amazing team. The journey so far has already been quite exciting, and I feel the onward journey will leave us all a little changed. I want to challenge myself, to go out on adventures, to feel alive, and most importantly to do good. Because I can."
East German Karsten Hentschel, currently residing in Weimar, once the cultural capital of Europe and home of past pop stars like Goethe, Schiller, Liszt, Gropius, Strauss and Kani. He likes riding bicycles on mountain trails and has crashed several times. Unlike his cycling skills he has a flawless car driving career. Trained on an old russian military truck model URAL 375D while serving military duties in the east german NVA 30 years ago, he never had a car accident. He is looking forward to checking out the wheel on the wrong side of the car.
Daniel was born in Venezuela and is the fourth member of this motley crew. He met Peter while climbing mount Kilimanjaro in 2003. He has been listening to Peter talk about the Banjul challenge for almost as long as he has been talking about it. Daniel has zero knowledge of car mechanics but he is a very good backseat driver and he really does have a degree in cinematography. He also makes a mean chai and likes to contemplate the passage of time.
You can support The Banjul or Bust film project by donating to our crowdfunding page.
You can also visit our information page at yogapod for updates and news flashes. And you can check our progress so far by visiting our video diary Banjul Challenge 2018. You'll find here a collection of entertaining short films documenting our challenge so far.
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