35 1/2 x 24″ (90 x 61 cm).
This is one sign painted on both sides. It was mounted on a stand so that both sides would be visible from either direction. The designs on each side are similar but not the same. Unlike sandwich signs which are two separate units attached at the top by a hinge and displayed in the same manner this one is a single unit. Both types of signs are common, used to advertise businesses in Togo, in this case a beauty salon. This sign has been removed from the base that one time supported it on the ground in front of the stylist’s shop. These signs were painted by an accomplished, though anonymous, commercial artist.
This sign is distinguised by its bold royal blue background on which two large women’s heads are beautifully painted by hand. At the top is the word, in large capital red letters, TRESSE, which means BRAIDS, in French. However the word is colloquially used in Africa to indicate that any women’s hairstyles are available in that establishment. Underneath that word, in large white capital letters, is the phrase “LA REINE”, which means “The Queen”, in French.
Referring to the main image here, the woman on the top left is wearing a red top and is looking to the right from the perspective of the viewer, but to her own left. We only see the right side of her face, a side view. She is wearing one elongated white diamond shape earring in her right ear. She, like the other woman here, is wearing bright red lipstick. Her braided hair is pulled back off of her forehead and is mostly hanging down her back but there are a few strands on each side of her head extending down her front, on both sides of her body. The woman to the lower right of the painting has her head tilted forward and to her left so both of her eyes are visible but we only see her left ear in which she is wearing a long double helix shape white earring. Her braids are tied up on top of her head in a bun with a few strands dangling down on each side of her head, on the skin of her upper chest.
The wording, color and orientation of the title on the other side of this sign is identical; the background is also the same royal blue. The women on this side appear to be the same women as on the other side but with different clothes and hairstyles. The one on the top left of this side is now dressed in white; her head orientation is the same as on the other side but her earring on this side is a small white drop earring. All of her hair is pulled back off her forehead and is hanging behind her head and is shorter. The other woman on this side is now dressed in red and has heavier braids falling down on both of her shoulder, covering her ears so no earrings are visible.
Both women’s hairstyles show a lot of detail, a lot of texture, as African hairstyles typically do. The sign is painted on a thin piece of wood and is in very good condition; it is framed in the same royal blue and the frame continues down to form the legs. The overall height of the sign, including the legs is 44 3/4″ (113.7 cm). This form of African art is contemporary; these signs continue to be made although currently the trend seems to be to more professionally printed signs on paper which is now cheaper than hiring an artist. This, therefore, is one of the last of a dying art.