Congo La Sape 1 Favorite 



Apr 1 2014


Brazzaville Congo

Their name, Sapeurs, comes from the French slang se saper, meaning to dress with class, but also from the acronym of their social group : La Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (the Society of Ambianceurs and Elegant Persons). La Sape can be traced back to the early years of colonialism. The French had set out to civilize African people by providing them with European second hand clothes as a bargaining tool to gain the devotion of the superiors. Although war and strife have damaged the Congo over the years, there has been a revival of La Sape in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. Despite campaigns taking place prompting the barring of the subculture from public spaces, they are now well respected, representing stability and tranquillity amidst the turmoil in the country. According to powerful government minister for specialised economic zones, Alain Akouala Atipault, la Sape indicates that the nation is returning to life after years of civil war, representing a sign of better things. Violence and fighting are characteristics that simply do not correspond with the moral conduct of the Sapeurs. Their exuberant flamboyance serves as a lighting rod for the Congolese disenfranchised youth, guiding it away from Third World Status to a modern cosmopolitanism.
In a country devastated by civil wars, bombings, poverty and deprivation, against a backdrop of shantytowns, this fascinating Congolese subculture raises a dilemma. While at first glance, la Sape is a cult of the cloth, it is a revolutionary movement, which once defied political leaders, using appearance and propriety as a form of rebellion against the brutal aspects of Congolese life and generating a peaceful environment that follows them around. Yet, when we see the lengths these dedicated followers of fashion go to in order to acquire their European suits, ties, and their Cuban cigars, the fascination of the illogicality of the subculture’s lifestyle suddenly becomes more of a concern than wonderment.

Posted by erin_hy on

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