More hand painted African shop art
Given that my post on the hand painted shop art of Somaliland seemed relatively popular with some of you, it seemed sensible to give you something to compare it to and put it into perspective. Of course, the term relatively popular here is no actual indication of actual popularity, which could more accurately be described as woefully unpopular, which puts you, dear readers, in the travel blog reading category of weird deviants, which is why I love you. Naturally if I was sensible, in search of fame and fortune, I’d be pimping my ass on social media, churning out Top Tens of Beaches in Thailand or 37 things to do in Torremolinos before you die, rather than my usual type of subject matter, such as Toilets in Tajikistan, or in this case a load of amateur art work from a slum in an obscure, dirt poor, West African nation, that only idiots like me go to, because they’ve just had a revolution and a big terrorist attack but more importantly the wi-fi is too shit to pimp yourself on social media, to tell the world what an amazing time you are having.
Hold on, I think I was meant to be writing a post on African shop art, sorry.
Hopefully by now you will have all read my previous post about life in Jongo so you will be aware of what a fashionable, up to the minute, hipster kind of place the town is. If you have not read it and really couldn’t be bothered troubling yourself with the few finger and eye movements required to do so, please add a large, ironic NOT to the end of the previous sentence and you will be ready to continue.
As there is not the slightest chance that an influential art critic or investor would even inadvertently fart in the general direction of a place like Jongo, you can be sure that anything resembling art found there has at least one treasured characteristic: authenticity. So much so that its creators may not even classify it as such, as it’s simply a trade, providing a service for local businesses. Before the likes of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram thought it would be a splendid idea to make their fellow Muslims’ lives a misery around the region, there were at least enough real tourists, the kind that actually bought nice souvenirs, unlike me, to mean that an artist might supplement their commercial work by selling images of mud huts and women carrying stuff on their heads at the kind of prices that meant they could afford to buy something more impressive than a bag of rice from a day’s work. Alas, no more and sadly it will probably remain that way for a long time yet. All I can offer is this modest celebration of their skills as a paltry recompense.
Virtually everywhere in West Africa the hair stylist’s sign is the most common example you’ll see. Some are pretty cool.
Other’s less so
And others……well I’ll let you judge.
Food always could do with a nice pic, remembering that literacy rates can be lower than we would like, so a sign declaring “Bargain Roast Pork”, with flashing neon lights will generally be less effective than an image of a fat, juicy pig, Incidentally this is also evidence of nearby Christians, although the somewhat flexible nature of West African interpretations of Sharia law could mean an Islamic customer base as well.
For similar reasons a menu is of less importance than in the West, so a sign with some pictures does the job perfectly well. Even if there is a menu you can be sure that it’s more for decoration as most of the items will not be available, menus are generally of an aspirational nature in West Africa
Although, unlike Somaliland, signs here are the most popular means of advertising there are a number of painted shop fronts but they tend to be more modest than their Somali counterparts.
Some shops, like this one, manage to merge three seemingly incompatible businesses into one space.
One can only hope that their tattooing skills didnt develop from their training in hair dressing and sewing.
So, if you happen to be hanging around Ougadougou, with money to spare and nothing to do, its only a 50 cent taxi ride out to Jongo, drop in and haggle for some art work, odds are it will be fashionable one day and you’ll recoup your investment admirably and make some struggling artists very happy.