All of these pictures are property of Eric Thibodeau and may
not be reprinted without permission. www.ericthibodeau,com
Welcome to African
Roadsigns.com, my own collection of funny roadsigns, shop-names,
bumper slogans, and generally amusing pictures that I've collected from my work as a relief worker here
in West Africa. You'll find these quirky signs and shops all over Africa, ranging in topics as varied as civil
war, religion, childcare, and even bird flu. After several months of chuckling at the signs and discovering
they just got funnier as I went along, I decided to start collecting them as I went about business in town.
After a year or so, I realized that I'd run out of signs to photograph, so switched to taking pictures of the
quirky platitudes, idioms, and mottos African drivers here will often paint on their taxis, trucks and other
vehicles to personalize them. Through it all, I also captured some unusual stills of African life in general,
whether it's buildings made of automobile parts or goats riding in taxis. When I got to about a thousand
pictures, I knew I had to do something with them besides keep them for myself, and so I picked out several
hundred of what I thought were the best ones & put this webpage together. It's divided into three pages of
pictures, Roadsigns and Shop-names, Automobile Bumpers, and Life In Africa. Use the buttons below to
navigate to the other pages, and if you'd like to see the pictures clearer, click on them to enlarge. If there's
a problem with the site or if you have any questions or comments, let me know at eric @ ericthibodeau,com.
I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them!
Do West Africans love Jesus? Yes, they do.
So much, in fact, that they name their shops after Him, paint sayings about Him
on their cars, and work
Him into almost every facet of their lives. It's quite common to give your business a 'Christian-themed' name regardless of it's function, so the roads
in West Africa are lined with such places as the 'Precious Blood Of Jesus Tire Rotate Shop' or the 'My God Is Able Barbering Saloon'. I've even seen
a mushroom farm named, fantastically, 'God's Pencil Has No Eraser Mushroom Farm'. These are quite often accompanied by a 'motto verse' displayed
somewhere on the sign. Muslims join in, too...I've seen a few 'In sh'Allah (God's Will) Money Exchangers' around. Other eclectic shop names range
from 'Enemies Are Not God' to 'Let Them Say' to the mysterious 'Observers Are Worried'". One shop's simply named 'Father, Forgive Them'. Are they
offering up their livelihoods to God's direction, openly proclaiming their faith to everyone in the village, or just treating God as a sort of 'lucky charm'
for their business? Who knows? I do know that while many may say that American Christians wear their faith on their sleeves, I have yet to see the
'Only Jesus Can Save Fast Food'' burger joint back home. If you'd like to read more on Africa's Christian-themed shop names, click here or here.
'Jesus Never Fails' Building material & hardware (Hey, he was a carpenter) 'Jesus Is Alive' Blocks for Sale & Supermarket
Give Your Problem To God The Answer Is Jesus Electricals Little Is Much When God Is In It (both stores seem to be empty, ironically)
Thank You Jesus-Have You Said It Today? Only Jesus Can Save/Prince of Peace Clap For Jesus Enterprise Let God Be Praise Block Factory
God Is King Chop Bar (Fast Food) God First Beauty Salon & Frozen Foods, and Business Center
A Chapter A Day Drives the Devil Away If God Be With Us With God All things Are Possible Nothing Is Too Hard For The Lord
Remember Thy God Fabric Store My Lord Motors (specialist in Benz, of course) Only Prayer Communication Center Never Give Up
We Pray For Life Try Master Jesus Enterprises (sellers of Redeemer Chemicals More Blessings
stationery, 'cow bones', chicken parts, & (We Care, but Jesus Heals)
other items (also rent chairs & canopies)
God is not just in the shops, He's all over the place. Here are a few billboards and 'healing centers' (with business hours!) around the region.
It's not just businesses that do it, of
course...here are a few houses decorated with verses and Christian platitudes.
Lunchtime, already? Well, let's head
to the market for some 'cow meat & intestines' some pig feet, a little roasted
meat out of a
box, or just a bowl of goat soup. If a picture of a goats head sitting in some broth doesn't get your mouth watering for goat soup,
nothing will. While I really like all of these signs, sometimes there can be such a thing as too much truth in advertising. So, enjoy
your lunch, and remember, if you have a meal at the ever popular Nakonye Chop Bar...do as the sign says- 'Don't Mind Your Wife'.
Can be found all over West Africa. Their methods range from native plants
& herbs to
witchcraft. The pictures at top left show
some of the ailments to be cured, such as 'Asma' (asthma) and 'Big Trot' (goiter) to simply 'Evil'. Some are not so much physical conditions as personal
desires ('Do You Want To Be Pregnant?', 'Men Power Low-Come for Long Power', 'Best Man In Education'). The pictures are quite graphic, as well, which
help you to decipher what the ailment is. Check out the three pictures at top left and see how many can you decipher. I never had an opportunity to visit
any of these guys, but any doctor who advertises using a painted sheet (or just paints on the side of a junked car, for that matter) can't be all bad, right?
Rape/Sexual Abuse- A
big problem in West Africa, especially in post-war countries such as Sierra
Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Here are some
shockingly graphic signs condemning such actions, more disturbing than they are amusing. As many as 30% of women in nations such as Liberia
have experienced some form of sexual abuse. Frequently, school-age girls are coerced into sexual relationships with their teachers in exchange for
getting an education. Among the many signs you see along the road, those warning against rape & sexual abuse are probably the most common.
Liberia was embroiled in a
civil war that
lasted from the rise of
in 1989 until he was exiled in 2003, a total of about 14 years.
Despite the end of the war, there were still many issues to deal with post-conflict, chief among them ensuring that things didn't flare back up in an
already fragile peace. With thousands of rebels and child soldiers now out of work and options, the situation in Liberia was still tenuous. Crime had
ingrained itself into a populace with few options and grudges remained from the 14 years of conflict. Even those responsible for keeping the peace,
the police and military, were only a uniform away from lawlessness themselves, and corruption was grossly widespread. This series of signs deals
with the fallout from the conflict. The mob violence, the rapes, torture at the hands of those in charge, overzealous police, & just crime in general.
Thieves caught in the act in Liberia usually meet a quick death at the hands of an angry mob, and the rule of law is seldom the method of choice in
dealing with criminals. A prison system so corrupt that release can be bought for 'small small' money no doubt adds to the troubles. The common
theme running through all these signs is to remind people to use the law. If you look at the picture in top left, you'll see one person carrying a can
of gas while another holds a tire. The captured man, no doubt, will be the victim of 'necklacing', wherein a tire is put around the neck & set alight.
The last gasp for the
Civil War In
Liberia was in the summer of 2003, when the Guinean -backed rebel group
L.U.R.D. marched on Monrovia and began
indiscriminately shelling the capital. They fought with pro-Taylor government troops back and forth over the two bridges that connected Bushrod Island
with downtown and the governmental offices. At top left is some bullet-ridden graffiti left over from that time. In the areas controlled by the L.U.R.D.
you can still see many light posts, billboards and signs replete with bullet holes, as below. The 14-year conflict resulted in many children missing, some
conscripted into the opposing forces as child soldiers, some relocated to safer areas and lost track of, some shot indiscriminately, some kidnapped and
used in human sacrifices, & many who simply vanished. The International Commitee of the Red Cross did a good job of relocating those that they could.
After Taylor left office and the war began winding down, a large scale de-mobilization program began, offering ex-combatants a 50-lb. bag of rice in
exchange for a weapon (usually AK-47's) or a mortar shell. Liberians expressed their weariness of conflict by painting 'No Arms Allowed' all over the
place, with the AK-47 again being the most common weapon seen, thanks to the collapse of the cold war & the resultant flood of cheap Russian arms
throughout West Africa. The picture at bottom left is my favorite picture I've taken here. I just wanted a picture of the sign, but the boy wanted to be
in the photo. I snapped one to oblige him, then took another one after he moved. Upon returning home and seeing the picture, I was struck by how
powerful the image was. Behind him, the door reads 'No Arms Up In Here', Peace Is Our Concern Here' and 'Motto: Peace Together As One', with a
'no gun' symbol. At right are two of the many, many 'No Arms Allowed' painted signs around the Monrovia area, one with my happy mug next to it.
A few signs proclaiming the hope for
the future of the nation of Liberia. Let's pray that Liberia will rise
again...free from conflict and war.
This mural on Bushrod Island Road in
Monrovia is a reminder of the horrors of the war and promises of the future. At
left are a soldier & a rebel looting
a village and forcing it's inhabitants to evacuate, while on the right you see the Red Cross finding missing children and providing good health care for all.
'The Stubborn One'- Can't
have Liberian pictures without him, can we?
Charles Taylor, the
warlord who fought his way to the presidency of Liberia in
the 1990's, left office in 2003 after rebel groups, tired of watching him run the country into the ground while fomenting rebellion in neighboring Sierra
Leone, surrounded the downtown area and began shelling indiscriminately. As US warships circled off the coast & President Bush called for him to step
down, he threw himself one last party & left the country, proclaiming "God willing, I will be back". He was exiled to Nigeria & remained there for three
years until President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf asked for him to be extradited. He was caught trying to sneak into Cameroon with a suitcase full of money &
arrested. He now sits in a jail cell in The Hague as he's tried for war crimes. Despite the troubles he inflicted upon his own nation and Sierra Leone, he
has no shortage of supporters in Liberia, as evidenced by these three signs which were put up on UN Drive in Sinkor last year. They falsely proclaim his
innocence and direct you to a website supporting him. Yes, click over to Fortaylor.net for a dose of pro-Taylor propaganda, complete with a comments
section, where sentiment seems to be 2 to 1 in favor of 'the stubborn one'. These signs were blacked out about 4 months ago, though they're still there.
His many years as a warlord were spent by exploiting Liberia's many natural resources and enriching himself in the process. A shrewd manipulator of
the people, Taylor won their hearts and minds through his many well-timed (and self serving) feeding programs and 'prayer rallies', where pro-Taylor
propaganda was handed out. He even commissioned an elementary school (below right), though considering his infamous use of child soldiers (which
he formed into 'Small Boy Units' ), one has to wonder if the school had a recruiting office on campus' or if the curriculum included 'Small Arms Fire'.
Barclay Training Center-
This bas relief was painted onto the military base in downtown Monrovia. As you
can see, the Liberian flag greatly mimics
our own, as the founders of Liberia were ex-slaves and freed men of color, who based the Constitution, laws & even the flag upon their nation of birth.
As the Civil War wound down, and Liberia
begins rebuilding, these signs let everyone know 'the process is on'...the
process of taxing the populace and restoring electricity throughout the nation. As President Johnson-Sirleaf is fond
of saying, "Small Light Today, Big Light Tomorrow''. Electricity still has yet to be restored in the country, however.
Disability- While forced
amputation was more widespread in Sierra Leone than Liberia, there were
scattered incidents here, too. In some extreme
cases, captured fighters had their arms tied behind their backs (usually at the elbows) so tightly that circulation was cut off and the arms were lost.
These signs are messages to treat amputees and other disabled persons as you'd treat any other person. Not too hard, as some of them have even
started an amputee football ( soccer ) team, playing against amputees from other nations as part of the Worldwide Amputee Football Association.
After the war, the United Nations moved troops (as many as 17,000) to Liberia to keep the peace. UNMIL(United Nations Mission In Liberia) was comprised
of troops from dozens of different countries, each performing a different task. The Pakistanis built bridges, the Chinese ran heavy transport, the Nepali were
one of the police units, the Nigerians & Ghanaians manned the checkpoints, and so on. Each nations troops are known as a battalion (PakBatt, GhaBatt, etc).
Below you see some signs from the Nepali, Pakistan, & Ghanaian contingents and a statue commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Convention.
A few signs from the recovery, imploring people to behave in an honest manner, decrying corruption in the government and the schools, and a billboard
for recruiting men for the new Armed Forces of Liberia. Also at bottom are two signs for the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, set up for the purpose
of 'establishing an independent and accurate record of the rights violations and abuses occasioned by the conflict' to use their own words. You also see a
photo of the 'Daily Talk', a sort of rabble-rousing local paper. The have a giant chalkboard out front that airs their 'grievance of the day', usually another
politician caught up in the endless corruption here. At top right is a photo of the Temple Of Justice, though the Superfriends were nowhere to be found.
Liberia held a general election in 2005,
pitting 'Old Ma' Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard educated grandmother with
experience in Liberian politics (and a stint at the World Bank) against ex-footballer George Weah. He was the first (and only)
African to win the European League coveted MVP, and is probably Liberia's greatest export. As the elections were the nations
first since it's civil war ended two years before, & the country still experiencing a very fragile peace, the elections were closely
watched and guarded. In the end, Ol' Ma's Unity Party beat George Weah's Congress for Democratic Change by a comfortable
twenty percent margin. Political posters, billboards, and flyers littered the landscape in those days. While most of the election
signs are rather dry and uninspired, the graffiti I saw scrawled on the ground (bottom left) made me laugh, making a not-so-
subtle jab against 'King George' in the form of a question. The picture right next to it answers the question beautifully, I think.
HIV/AIDS- Not as bad in West
Africa as some other parts of the continent, but still a threat. These signs
instruct you about the transmission of
the disease. My friends at Equip put up copies of the funny sign at left, one of my favorites. "AIDS? But this girl looks fine and healthy"
Condom Use- Some
quirky signs promoting condom use. Good use of cartoons to promote the
message, though I'm wondering why
someone would have an 'AIDS is Real' sign hanging over their bed. As you can see from the sign on the right, condoms will protect you
from a myriad of diseases, all shaped like little skulls. Read the skulls and see if you can figure out what the diseases are supposed to be.
Some friends of mine visited the town of Ganta, and told me of a sign upon entering the town that read 'Welcome to Ganta-AIDS is here'.
I was never able to get a photo, but can't imagine a more bizarre way to welcome visitors to your town than informing them of that fact.
Some reminders not to 'stuff the child'
and to breastfeed. Men often force the women to bottle-feed, as breast feeding
can cause misshapen breasts.
If you look in the second picture, you'll see a woman bottle feeding her baby with a picture of her husband ( or her boyfriend ) hanging behind her,
a subtle acknowledgement that the reason the women are neglecting to breast feed is because of the men in their lives 'not allowing' them to do so.
Give Blood- And a few signs
from JFK hospital in Monrovia informing you why you should. 'Be A Hero Today,
Blood Is Not A Taboo".
Malaria- A big killer in Africa. It can be prevented by sleeping under a mosquito net that's been treated with mosquito-killing pesticides.
A few general health signs. 'Do Not Sleep In Same Room As Chickens', is one of my favorites and sound advice, too.
Diarrhea and Cholera- Are spread by 'poopoo germs' and are prevented by handwashing alone & 'burying
pupu where there is no latrine'.
Public Urination- The
scourge of West Africa! With nowhere to pee, and everyone always walking
everywhere, 'marking your territory' becomes a
necessity. Against walls, onto buildings, even on the side of the road. The signs forbidding it are some of my favorites, from 'Only Dogs Pepe Here'
to 'Pepe Can Eat Iron', to a dog peeing standing up. If you really need to go, there's always toilets available for rent, such as 'Swamp View Toilet'.
Enviromentalism- Not too big here. It rarely extends beyond 'stop throwing your trash everywhere and pooping all over the place'. Still, the
sign at left gives a good picture example of some of the wildlife that can be found around Liberia, mostly centering around Sapo National Park.
The other signs are reminders to keep the place clean, except for the mysterious 'I'm Not The one Who Dumped It Here" at bottom left...
Squatters & Hawkers- They're everywhere. Some of the signs can be a bit violent (see left). Most of the time, they're just ignored, as these signs were.
A Few Add-ons- Sent to me by friends still over there, these came to me a bit late to fit into the website, but I thought I'd
put them in their own special row. Here's a little Ethnic/Tribal Violence (with a Muslim fighting a Christian), 'Man At Work',
more lectures about tribal differences, and finally, a sign for Bong County, which is 'Sailing To A Brighter Future', hopefully.
Irish Roadsigns.com?- I spent a week in Dublin recently and couldn't seem to shake the habit of taking
pictures of signs I saw.
Here's a few I saw around. No, they're not as good as African Roadsigns, but you have to laugh when somebody's lost a dog that
"answers to Heil." I also saw a reminder to remember 1916 (the year of the Easter Uprising), some homeless artwork, Some great
wisdom on a pub wall, & an Irish fortune teller. Also, they really shouldn't have to tell you not to put your tickets in your mouth.
Answers to 'Heil'... Remember 1916 Missing Son Homeless Chalk art
A Good time coming, be it ever so far away Irish Fortune Teller Save a Soul Not To Worry!
Don't Put Tickets in Mouth Free Building Believe in Jesus & Be Saved Giving out Free Hugs
Just a few things to be on the lookout
for. Soldiers shooting, Animals have right of way, and don't bring your fish
onto the plane. Even if it's fresh.
Some random amusement- A college that seems to be sponsored by Coca-Cola, a shop named simply 'Observers Are Worried', some
advice about self-improvement, a quirky sign for a typing service, the mysterious 'Your Secret Is Your Power', a bicycle repair shop that
'speaks bicycle language', a 'Worlds Greatest' communication center (no doubt) and the local rabble rousing newspaper the 'Daily Talk'.
Liquor Ads- You gotta love the sign at left. It never fails to crack me up. Also, the fat man wants 'more beer'...it looks like Lassie does, too.
Southern African Roadsigns-
I guess I'm not the only one who notices crazy roadsigns. I found most of
these pictures posted at the website of Asco Car Hire, an auto rental agency located all over southern Africa.
'Car Washing Spots' are usually
ponds or streams that run near the road and have an area
you can park in and bucket water onto your car. Some can handle as many as a dozen large
trucks, whereas the 'Small Small Car Washing Spot' could only handle one at a time, tops...
A Few Final Randoms- Tina Beach-'We Open', Beware the Bad Dog At Night, 'No Lemon' (Not sure what it was-the ten
foot high walls were hard to see over), Abe Okine; The 'African Assassin', and finally, Marleya Childrens School. Because
what better mascot for a children's school could there be than a stuffed gorilla with a cigarette hanging out of it's mouth?