The Sapeurs.. xxx

sape_brazzza_baudouin_mouanda-48

Suave and sophisticated, the title Sapeur comes from la SAPE, an abbreviation of Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes – The Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People. Over the past twenty five years it’s emerged as a brightly coloured African subculture inspired by the myth of Parisian elegance and Dandyism.

mouanda_m_008

Mostly centred around Brazzaville and Kinshasa, the adjacent Capitals of the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, the Sapeurs cultivate their refined gentility amid their countries war-torn, extreme poverty.

sape_brazzza_baudouin_mouanda-39

But despite this nations history, Sapeurs are pacifists – for them style is about being respectful with a pure attitude and impeccable manners.

sape_brazzza_baudouin_mouanda-3

Creativity is paramount – although many will spend whatever they have on clothes,  it’s not about the money, it’s about style and being flamboyant in oneself, despite the circumstances.

sape_brazzza_baudouin_mouanda-50

(All the pictures above by Baudouin Mouanda)

They are ordinary people, with ordinary jobs who break free by transforming their dusty pavements into fabulous fashion runways. But the truth is these characters are teachers, creatures of spirit with a powerful, requisite flair and passion.

meh0306054-f9dbaa332981792cbdc058b265824b440f4b6aae-s6-c30

(Photo by Hector Mediavilla)

Sharp and sly, like poetry in motion with their hearts turned to the sun, they demand that there can be great riches in small spaces..their irresistible sense of pride says you can be whatever you want to be…and sometimes we all need that fairytale.

The Congolese Sape

(Photo by Hector Mediavilla)

A very short documentary – worth watching! x

To those that say their style is part of a legacy of cultural imperialism and a post-colonial carry-over they say:

‘White people invented the clothes..but we turned them into an art form’

Personally, I doff my bright yellow trilby to them.

Laters, Kate x

22 comments

  1. Laura Lynn

    What a great way to brighten up a melting snow day-anything more depressing? the Sapeurs have my heart in their hands. Today I am going to dress up as fine as I can and just go have a coffee at the bakery. I am a Sapeur at heart!

  2. Alexa Jean

    Having fallen in love with these dapper chaps in the Guinness advert it’s brilliant to see some more shots of them looking fabulous. Their passion and pride is clear and I certainly think they could teach me about creating style from the ordinary.

  3. Lia in Brussels

    Oh, I’ve been admiring the Sapeurs ever since I came across them some years back. I’ve always admired the way Africans use and combine colour but these gents elevate style to a whole new level! xxx