The Sign Painters of DR Congo

The large, glossy-format printers that we have in the US don’t exist in DR Congo. This makes it very difficult to create large advertisements. Despite this, you see big bulletins for products everywhere. The secret to these are the signs painters; groups of very talented artists who eek out a living painting signs around the country.

The quality of these guys work is amazing. Not only do they have crap paint and brushes to work with, but they are also doing this outside in the sun and yet are duplicating the original products so well that you don’t even realize that a whole advertisement was painted by hand. Once you do realize this, the scope of the work that is done is mind blowing.

From toothpaste to beer to ads for Nokia, these guys do it all. If someone were daring enough, a documentary about this group would be fascinating. As it was, I just managed to get a few pictures of them at work and the countless billboards that are their work around town. One road in particular, which was supposed to be the road for heavy trucks, but now everyone uses, has a continuous wall between it and the railroad tracks. This wall rarely has any empty space on it as sign painters have plastered it with advertisements. You can see an example of a guy at work below.

This is just one of those small things that a person can appreciate in a country as broken as DR Congo. Artists are everywhere and somehow throughout history they always find some niche that allows them to survive.