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In Photos: Possibly Strange Sights in West Africa

Taxi interior design in Bamako.

Minimalist taxi interior design

T-shirts in English in Francophone countries. “PMS – Putting up with Men’s Shit.” He’s not trying to be ironic. He just doesn’t know what the shirt says.

I’m starting a restaurant in Abidjan with this guy and his girlfriend.

Like Amadou, he is unaware of what his shirt says.*

*I explained the meaning of their shirts to them. Once they found out, it turned into a running joke. David still wears his in public.

Jesus Never Fails. Every vehicle has some wisdom, some tribute, that will help it arrive at its destination safely.

Still praise be to Allah. GhanaWeb has a listing of tro tro slogans on this page. A few of the more memorable ones: “Your wife is not your life partner,” “Six Feet at Last” and “Chastity is a Lifestyle.”

African kids doing Taekwondo is no more exotic than American kids doing it, but there is a particular obsession in Bamako. In her most recent post, my friend Sarah, who runs this awesome blog and takes lots of beautiful photographs, documents a contemporary dance performance taking place alongside a martial arts class in Bamako. Check it out. Somewhat related: this video of Bamako Kung Fu Puissanci

This was the same guy that later used a hunting knife on himself. Here, he is just sitting on a hummer with a snake. For more graphic photos, see this post from Sarah.

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{ 32 comments… add one }

  • Camels & Chocolate October 20, 2011, 10:47 am

    Having recently visited West Africa for the first time, I can relate to this so much more! Love the glimpses of the local flavor =)

    • phil October 20, 2011, 3:23 pm

      Next time, you have to get a bit inland, to camel country 🙂

      • Katrina October 22, 2011, 1:08 am

        Ooo, camel country! Sign me up. 😀

  • Alexis Grant October 20, 2011, 11:03 am

    Haaa! Laughed out loud at the PMS shirt. Love stuff like this.

    When I was in Senegal, I ran across a guy wearing a shirt for a TV station in Houston, where I’d just lived. I took a shot and sent it to an anchor friend who worked there!

    • phil October 20, 2011, 3:32 pm

      hah, that’s awesome. Crazy when you see something hyper local from home worn by someone a world away.

  • Amanda October 20, 2011, 3:12 pm

    I’m not sure if I should chuckle or feel sort of bad about those shirts… I mean, yes, it’s funny. But the fact that they have no idea what it means makes me feel bad about laughing at them.

    That being said, I really like these photos! They seem to really be a glimpse into life there.

    • phil October 20, 2011, 3:40 pm

      Hehe, don’t worry, they all know what it means now. David and Amadou were actually really entertained by the whole thing.

  • Stephen Jones October 20, 2011, 5:46 pm

    My favourite t-shirt slogan in Bamako: “Time is an Invention”.

    These guys have an intriguing take on it all: http://www.projectrepat.org/

    • phil October 20, 2011, 6:30 pm

      Perfect slogan for Mali. As far as Bambara is concerned, time is an invention. Or I suppose not time, but hours anyway.

      Thanks for the link. Intriguing take indeed. I dig it!

  • Nomadic Samuel October 20, 2011, 7:51 pm

    Phil, these are hilarious. It reminds me of a story my Uncle told me after he married his Japanese wife. They were visiting a rural fishing village where her family was from and met quite a distinguished man – somewhat humble and shy – wearing a t-shirt that loudly exclaimed: “I came here for the blowjob.” 😛

    • phil October 21, 2011, 10:21 am

      haha, wow that is a pretty special shirt. So perfect how much it contradicted his personality. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Aussie on the Road October 21, 2011, 2:20 am

    I love the different t-shirts. It reminds me of my time in Korea where I’d see shirts like ‘I am a fat girl’ or ‘This is a call out for all of the chubby penised men to give it to me like I deserve’ on nine year old boys >_>

    • phil October 21, 2011, 10:27 am

      Yikes. That second is pretty elaborate! Haha, you have to wonder who made that shirt in the first place!

  • Jaclyn October 21, 2011, 11:40 am

    I love these photos! The fucker one is hilarious!

    • phil October 21, 2011, 12:38 pm

      I’ve yet to see a more offensive shirt than that one 😉

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica October 21, 2011, 1:18 pm

    I don’t think I would wear a t-shirt with something written on it in another language that I didn’t understand. I wonder who gave them the t-shirts.

    • phil October 21, 2011, 1:53 pm

      bit of a risk, huh. They bought these shirts. Most of the used and donated clothing from the first world ends up in developing world markets where it is re-sold.

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures October 21, 2011, 8:20 pm

    OMG you need to do more posts like this. I loved it!!!

    • phil October 24, 2011, 12:00 pm


  • Erica October 21, 2011, 11:33 pm

    You just made me want to take more pictures of the insides of taxi cabs. They are just so awesome in their own way.

    I remember seeing some of the most amazing shirts in Japan. They just don’t know.

    • phil October 24, 2011, 12:01 pm

      Taxi cab interiors are very unique spaces. I wish I had started documenting them sooner.

  • Lauren October 21, 2011, 11:53 pm

    Hahahahaha, this is amazing!! I saw some crazy t-shirts in China when I was there.

    And really?! The taxis??? That’s so crazy.

    • phil October 24, 2011, 12:09 pm

      Lauren, you aren’t living if you aren’t riding in taxis like these

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam October 24, 2011, 2:07 am

    I would LOVE to ride through town atop a Hummer with a snake wrapped aruond my neck… 🙂

    Great post!!

    • phil October 24, 2011, 12:12 pm

      Raymond, it’s my dream as well 😉

  • angie October 24, 2011, 12:19 pm

    This is amazing..I love the different t-shirts. Hope you can post more..I really like these photos! They seem to really be a glimpse into life there.

  • NLM October 27, 2011, 5:41 pm

    Best part of traveling: you never know what you’ll see! Thanks for these!

  • Tiffany October 30, 2011, 6:20 am

    Ha ha! Great pictures and commentary, thanks for sharing your insight into Africa!

  • Stephen November 10, 2011, 8:53 am

    Awesome. Great shots. I love the PMS shirt!

  • Rahul December 30, 2011, 1:02 pm

    One of the interesting photo blog i ever landed…..really impressive work with the photographs…T Shirts are hilarious….

  • Brimshack April 16, 2012, 4:41 am

    Heh, love the shirts.

  • MrsO Around the Wrold August 28, 2012, 9:37 am

    It’s always funny to meet people who don’t understand what’s written on their T-shirts. I have seen some very hilarious T-shirt+wearer combinations so far…your pictures are definitely at the top of the list.

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