In 1927-28 Le Mayeur travelled to Nossi-B, an island off the north-west coast of Madagascar. From there he boarded a ship bound for Djibouti. Although his first few days in Djibouti were disappointing, as soon as Le Mayeur saw the coffee graders his optimism returned. He was particularly interested in painting the Somalian women, crouching down as they sifted the coffee beans.
"All this takes place in covered galleries full of refined filtered light. The elongated sunbeams gradually find their way along the brown bodies of the women...gilding everything with their gold dust" (Le Mayeur in a letter from Djibouti dated 14 March 1928).
In all, only three paintings but numerous sketches on this theme are known: one small but very delicate painting of this subject hangs in a private collection in Singapore, the whereabouts of another one is still unknown and the third one, the one which is now on offer, turned up in a collection in France.
They depict women sitting on their heels in a gallery prevaded by yellowish gold sunlight. An impression of the women's activities is established through thick paint spots.