In Congo-Brazzaville alone about 60 distinct languages are spoken daily. To provide a means of communication between different groups, trade languages developed. I imagine that the popular use of paintings on shop signs in African cities, which everyone can understand, emerged as a visual lingua franca.
When I was invited to Brazzaville, it was my first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa. I had heard that Africans in general dislike being photographed off guard. When I asked permission, many explained to me that they feel offended by the image of Africa in the foreign press. I see their point; we do see mostly famine, disease and war. Still asking permission, I began to photograph paintings on shops signs because I found them beautiful and because I am interested in how people view themselves and their world.
The most common paintings allude to grooming and dressing well: barbershops, hairdressers, shoe stores, tailors and fabric shops. Prized modernity takes the form of cell phones, televisions, musical instruments, computers and photo studio portraits. This popular street art reveals what people covet and desire like a reflection in the mirror of their worldview.