This sign measures 38 x 25″ (96.5 x 63.5 cm).
This is a single 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 commercial artist who goes by the name LAWA. He has signed this work and underlined that on the red clothing of the woman on the lower right corner of the reverse side of this sign. Under his signature are the words BE – GAKPOTO, a neighborhood of Lome, the capital of Togo.
This sign has a bright yellow background on which four women’s heads are beautifully painted by hand. The frame of the sign, including the legs, is royal blue. The corners have been reinforced with small, unpainted wooden triangles. The name of the business, the title of the sign, is “Chez Tanty Beauty”, all written in blue in the middle of the sign, between the two rows of two women’s heads. The first two words are in lower case and the third, BEAUTY, is in capitals. The people in Togo where this sign was made and used speak French but since Lome is on the border with Ghana, where they speak English perhaps this is why they have mixed French and English in the title. The owner of the salon has opted to use the word BEAUTY, in English, instead of BEAUTE, the French word. The translation of the name of the salon is therefore Auntie Beauty’s Place.
Referring to the main image here, the woman on the top left is wearing a white collared blouse and is looking straight ahead, her body oriented slightly to her left but from the perspective of the viewer, to the right. We only see her right ear but we see both of her eyes; her short hairstyle covers her left ear but is behind her right one. She is wearing a 4 pointed star-shape white earring. The woman in the upper right of this side of the sign is in profile; we see only the left side of her face as she looks to the left of the sign. She is wearing a red top and a long leaf-shape white earring. Her hair is in a short ponytail style with beads on the ends. The woman on the lower left of this side of the sign is wearing a red blouse and is facing away from us; we only see the back of her head and her right ear in which she is wearing a drop-shape white earring. She has a short wavy hairstyle. The woman on the lower right of this side of the signboard wears a white top and is looking downward to her left, facing the left side of the painting. She is wearing a white harp-shape earring in her left ear; her hair is all gathered in a tall bun on the top of her head.
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 46″ (117 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.
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