Press Release

Extra ’O’! African Barbershop and Hairdressing Signs


CONTACT: Charles Schuler  
Director of Marketing & Communications
San Francisco International Airport 
(650) 821-5031

Extra ’O’! African Barbershop and Hairdressing Signs
New exhibition features a colorful variety of hand-painted barbershop and hairdressing from West African and Kenya

SAN FRANCISCO— Hairstyling has a long, rich history in Africa. New styles change and evolve to keep up with contemporary fashion trends. Barbers and hairdressers are responsible for most of the meticulously faded men’s coifs and intricately braided women’s hairstyles. Barbershops and hair salons may consist of a simple structure with a hand-painted sign nailed to its exterior. Sometimes a barber or hairstylist will fabricate the signs themselves. More often, these signs, which commonly detail the latest hairstyles, are painted on wood panels by self-taught sign artists who work in studios or independently. Such signs first appeared in urban areas to advertise services sometime during the 1930s to 1950s.

With the advent of machine-printing, hand-painted barbershop and hairdressing signs—a vibrant form of African folk art in the form of advertising—appear less frequently on shop fronts. This exhibition displays a variety of colorful signs from the past forty years from West Africa and Kenya, where barbershops are called kinyozi. Items relating to hair in traditional African culture are also on view including, headrests, hair combs, helmet masks, and carved Yoruba twin figures (ibeji), which reflect the longstanding tradition and importance of hairstyling in African culture.

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Extra ’O’! African Barbershop and Hairdressing Signs is located post-security in Terminal 2, Departures Level, San Francisco International Airport. This exhibition is accessible to ticketed passengers from February 29, 2020 to September 14, 2020.

About SFO Museum

Established in 1980 by the Airport Commission, SFO Museum’s mission is to delight, engage, and inspire a global audience with programming on a broad range of subjects; to collect, preserve, interpret, and share the history of commercial aviation; and to enrich the public experience at San Francisco International Airport. The Museum was granted initial accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1999, reaccredited in 2019, and has the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features thirty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation. To browse current and past exhibitions, research our collection, or for more information, please visit Follow us on,, or

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