Mural 63 in 27 Countries! -- Lomé, Togo

The day started off a little rough.  The Public Affairs Officer asked if I could go to the Ambassador's Residence in order to show the people who were going to put up an awning the exact location.  I rushed there immediately from my hotel around the corner!  But, I learned something.  It isn't a good thing to go to the Ambassador's Residence without your identification.  The guards didn't know who I was and certainly didn't trust me.  I simply wanted to show them the mural location on an exterior wall, but it required two guards, their supervisor, and finally the Diplomatic Security Special Agent to get the job done.

Then, I came back to the hotel to get cleaned up for a day of sweating in the African blistering sun.  And, it was an amazing day.

Painting under the Blazing African Sun with a Very Necessary Awning, Koumy, my Togolese coworker, has four trained apprentice artists.  The work goes so much faster with so many artists on board.  I showed them how I work with a grid to create my murals.  They had never seen a chalk line before and were simply amazed at what is available in other parts of the world.  I use a graphite pencil to draw my murals while Koumy used soft chalk.  I may switch to that just because it's easier to paint over.  He really liked my pencil, but the chalk appeared the better choice.

Part of the non-diva experience is allowing students ownership.  One student wanted to draw the hands.  I showed him how I use the grid to draw them.  He preferred free-hand work.  So, I told him that this was a skill that helped me.  But, if he wanted to go with free-hand art, it was his call.  I was fine with his drawing, but when he mixed paint for skin coloring, pink was not acceptable.  I may have been fried a little in the sun, but I couldn't live with the pink he first created.

There was no shortage of volunteers to paint.  About fifteen teenagers from three local schools showed up.  They painted on the previous mural project and they were delighted to be back.  Then, three Peace Corps Volunteers also showed up.  I couldn't have been more thrilled. So, there were more than enough willing hands to grab brushes.  It was a great day.

The design was a bit of a secret.  It was four very fat letters that spelled out "TOGO".  Koumy had not been informed about it.  He was as surprised as everyone else.  And, I love that bit of secrecy for the artists.  Most people who look at the art will never spot it.
Some of the return Students show off their Work, and the Secret Number 63
The letter T has a map of West Africa and the red lion of Togo.  Across the O and the G is a handshake, two women's hands for International Women's Month.  Also, in the G, my contribution is the flags of the USA and Togo. Any other free space, as well as the final O, was for the Koumyism expression.

The Peace Corps Volunteers watched Koumy outline the mural on their second day of painting.  He used a brush about twice as thick as I do and about five times as fast.  Do you want broad, thick strokes that flow freely or do you want my usual careful precision?  You know what to do while in Rome or Togo.  The Volunteers had half of the mural outlined at the end of their final day of painting.  On my own, it usually takes me two days to do that part.

When the mural was completed, the ambassador came for a viewing. She was thrilled, and according to everyone I've spoken to, they are thrilled with her.  I had about two undivided minutes, which is huge on an ambassador's schedule, and explained the letters of TOGO for her. And, the final secret was hidden in the red sleeve that she loved so much.  (It was her favorite color for clothing.)  If you look closely, you should find the letter 63 in the shadows, for my sixty-third mural.
You have to know it's there to see it, but the pink outline shows the letters TOGO.