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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Girl with Broom in a Workshop Doorway - Updated

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Every Picture Tells a Story (Don't it?) - 12 - In a land with high unemployment and dirt-poor wages, hand-painted commercial art is part of the urban landscape

I can't say that this was a terribly enjoyable country for me. Mass tourism had made it difficult to genuinely meet and talk to people - the locals either didn't really want to know or else they wanted to sell you something. And if you didn't buy, they didn't react well.

Unless you got away from the tourist areas.

Of course, this is just my take, most locals were surely glad of the tourist income, although the bulk of that surely went to the hotel owners rather than the cooks, waiters and room maids at the coal face.

But that's me, and I'm an oddball. I'm sure many of the visitors just loved the affordability of the place. I confess I did. But the bitterness of the street sellers revealed a simmering resentment of their lot. Not good. It boiled over a few years after I took this, in January, 1995. It proved to be my last photographic trip.

One aspect that was noteworthy was some of what you might call the 'commercial-technical art' on tradesmen's places of work. In this photo, I caught the young lady in the doorway with a glimpse of such work on the wall left of the door - it looks like an car alternator or some such, so presumably this is an electro-mechanical repair business.

This is a rather simple example of such art, I'd agree. I'll try to find a far better illustration of such work and post it later - but meanwhile, where might this be? (Sorry, I admit there are not many clues here or in the photo - but hey, life's full of challenges.)

I'll update this with the answer later, probably Thursday if I can find that other pic.

UPDATE 1: Well, this is proving difficult (sorry). But here's an extra clue. It's the pic I finally located last night of the best example I found of painted commercial art. Obviously, now it's clear it's an Arab country - for all I know the text may even give away which one. This was in the capital (unlike the Girl with the Broom), where I suppose there were some sons of the well off able to buy a Kawasaki bike. Lovely detailed artwork, I think. I'll update this with the answer this evening.

A tough question I thought, and so it proved. At least two readers suggested Cuba. In truth, I would have loved to have 'done' Cuba, but I had to try to make money from these trips to live, and as a speculative venture, Cuba would have been awfully expensive.

Perspectives Budapest's very own Super Sleuth, Hubert "Poirot" Warsmann - whose detective skills have been dormant a little of late - suggested Marrakesh at first. (He also pointed out the painting was most likely of a starter motor - which indeed, it probably is.*) As it was late in the week, I put the second photo up and told him he was the closest so far - and he confidently followed up with Tunisia.

(* Except site member Gene Brown then messaged me to confirm it IS a starter motor. "Believe me, I used to eat these for breakfast," Gene wrote. Gene, you've done very well lasting into your 70s in that case - congratulations! :) )

I found my negatives and contact sheets for 1995, and to my surprise the picture of the girl with broom was almost the very first shot I took on what was an extremely affordable trip that February. If I remember correctly, the whole caboodle, including flights, hotel with evening meal cost about USD 120. (The travel agency I used went bust some months later.)

It was in Sousse, where I landed and spent most of my time, although I did travel around a bit, including a trip north to Tunis, where I found the Kawasaki painting.

As it was, I don't think I covered my costs, as Tunisia was one of those country's that - at least prior to the Arab spring - rarely made it into the English-language press, which my main outlets served.

It was also a time of change, with the photo world going digital - meaning new outlays for cameras and lenses would be needed to continue - and my writing committments were increasing. So this trip was the beginning of the end for my photographic work.

Additional Update: My friend Hakam has translated the text accompanying the Kawasaki painting: It says "Repairing motorbikes and normal bikes".

And as Hakam commented: "In Arabic we refer to motorbikes as "fire bikes", which is what was written. And what they mean by normal bikes is, you might guess, normal bikes.. no motor, no fuel."

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