The painting above is the last souvenir that we purchased before leaving Togo on May 4 of this year. We finally got around to getting it stretched and framed and picked it up on Friday. The painting is by a Togolese artist, BarnabĂ© (Barnabas) Sallah. From the time we moved to Togo in 2001, I often saw Sallah’s work in restaurants and hotel lobbies. I always had the intention of purchasing one, but never quite saw one I liked at a price I could afford. Once I even met him at an exhibit at the Sarakawa, Togo’s nicest hotel where we would often go swimming, and carried around his cell number in my phone, but never called him.

About a week before we left Togo, Maureen and the other women on the team went for a one-night getaway. The hotel where they had planned to stay was full, so they went down the road and tried out another place. They ended up having a good experience, and Sallah’s paintings were also on display there. The women decided that the whole team would spend our family’s last day in Togo at this hotel. We could swim, the kids could play, we could eat together, and celebrate Jeremy’s birthday which was that day–AND the hotel manager said that she would invite Sallah to bring more of his paintings so we could have a look.

The day went well and finally Sallah showed up. All of the paintings were bigger than what we had imagined and well out of our price range. We talked and visited with him. We found a painting we liked, as did Stacey, our school teacher who was also leaving the following day. But none of us could afford what he was asking. We talked some more. Finally, we offered what we thought we could afford to pay, and acknowledged that the paintings were worth more, but that was all we could give. He accepted, took the painting off it’s wooden frame, rolled it up and gave it to us. It was a pretty big roll to carry onto the plane–the main part of the painting is 31 inches square.

The painting then went around the world with us–to Paris, Singapore, Alabama, and stayed rolled up until we got into our apartment. We decided to have a look at how well it had survived the trip. There were a couple of small cracks and a few chips in the thick acrylic paint, but it had made it relatively intact. We took it to Hobby Lobby for framing–we got their “half price” special (is it really half price when you can get that price anytime?), but the framing still cost more than the painting did. Still, we’re proud to have our last souvenir on our wall.

Oh, the title, written by the artist on the back of the canvas (along with his name and cell phone number) is “Les Bergers au Paturage”– “The Herdsmen in the Pasture.” How many herdsmen do you see? (I’ve changed my mind after looking at it more closely.)