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Sapeurs Star in the Best-Dressed Guinness Commercial
January 29, 2014 8:34 PM   Subscribe

A recent Guiness ad featured Congolese sapeurs, and it's joyful to watch. (Sapeurs previous, & previously.)
posted by of strange foe (23 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love reading about the sapeurs. But how the hell did he find a sporran and buckled shoes in the Congo?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:46 PM on January 29


Oh, and previously.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:47 PM on January 29


First I've heard of sapeurs--I love them with all my heart. But I have to ask: do they really drink Guinness in the Congo?
posted by zardoz at 10:09 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Zardoz, apparently East African Breweries Limited "offers beer under Tusker, Guinness, Tusker Malt, Pilsner, White Cap, Allsopps, and Bell brands" and it exports its products to Congo, among other places. So Guinness is at least potentially available in Congo. But according to the BBC, and I'm sure the news will shock you as it did me, the advertisers may have played a bit loose with the truth; the video was actually shot in South Africa.

By an odd historical coincidence, Dr Henry Grattan Guinness is a significant historical figure in Congo; he was responsible for the "Congo-Balolo Mission" that brought news of King Leopold II's genocidal activities in the Congo.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:37 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


But how the hell did he find a sporran and buckled shoes in the Congo?

Uh, ordered it off the internet? I doubt you have to go upriver on a company boat any more.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:43 PM on January 29 [4 favorites]


I love the voiceover quote from Invictus right at the end of the advert. Even though the lines from the poem have become rather cliched, it remains very appropriate for these fine gents.
posted by all the versus at 11:39 PM on January 29


The expat Sapeur community in Cape Town also feature in Solange Knowles music video for Losing You.
posted by PenDevil at 3:03 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


In the early 90s I remember meeting a Tanzanian driver who sported an immaculate white linen suit for a job that involved prolonged exposure to dusty back roads and oil changes. So perhaps it is not really such a recent and Congo-localized thing.

It does occur to me that a blue-collar worker trying this in Africa might actually be spending a smaller part of his pay packet on his pass-time than his equivalent in the west: I wondered if tailoring and dry cleaning services might be relatively cheap?
posted by rongorongo at 3:14 AM on January 30


It looks great, but isn't this minstrelism ?
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 3:27 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Is it racist to believe that anything involving portrayal of an ethnic minority must by definition be racist or is it because it is an advertisment and that by definition it must be explotative - even if it is only of the audience?
posted by fistynuts at 3:38 AM on January 30


But how the hell did he find a sporran and buckled shoes in the Congo?

He says individuals often belong to sub groups within the Sapeur culture, such as the Piccadilly group, who dress in Scottish kilts.

"One member has a sister in Scotland who brings him kilts," he explains. "They use and they adapt to their taste and individuality. They are masters of style, they create their own style."


Guinness in Africa - Nigeria is the biggest market for Guinness er see this headline from 2007 ;p

My goodness: Nigeria overtakes Ireland in Guinness sales
posted by infini at 4:05 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]


One of the things I've always heard about Guinness in Africa (specifically Nigerian Guinness) is that, due to the climate (or something) Nigerian Guinness is much stronger than Irish Guinness (or most locally bottled versions worldwide), something like 8%. I always thought that was pretty awesome, until I had my first imperial stout, and then I got over it. Great ads, meh beer.

Still, on my best day, I could never have even a tenth of the style the Sapeurs have. Damn.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:45 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


I have to ask: do they really drink Guinness in the Congo?
posted by zardoz at 10:09 PM on January 29 [+] [!]


Surely it's Um Bongo (Um Bongo) that they drink in the Congo?
posted by Paul Slade at 5:45 AM on January 30


They are awesome. I wish I was 1/100th as cool. My favorite quote in the mini-documentary: "If two people have the same suit, it's awkward, it looks like a football team."
posted by Dip Flash at 6:36 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


One of the things I've always heard about Guinness in Africa (specifically Nigerian Guinness) is that, due to the climate (or something) Nigerian Guinness is much stronger than Irish Guinness (or most locally bottled versions worldwide), something like 8%. I always thought that was pretty awesome, until I had my first imperial stout, and then I got over it. Great ads, meh beer.

I can't speak to the wider continent, but I always thought that the Guinness Foreign Extra they have in Burkina Faso is noticeably lighter in flavor than the Guinness available in the US. Looks like you're right about the alcohol content, though.
posted by solotoro at 6:42 AM on January 30


(Now having read the wiki, when I go back in March I'll have to see whether we're getting the Ghana stuff or the Nigeria stuff. Probably Ghana.)
posted by solotoro at 6:43 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Yikes.

So... your role as a consumer defines you. Not your work. Not your home. Not politics. Not power or wealth or resources.

Forget all that. As long as they'll give you a few moments to yourself, dress up in a costume, have a beer, and pretend your life is what you wear. Let them have your reality, you've got your fantasies. Who could ask for more?
posted by Max Udargo at 10:03 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


zardoz - the Guiness is better in Africa.
posted by glasseyes at 3:27 PM on January 30


It looks great, but isn't this minstrelism?

Short answer: no.
posted by glasseyes at 3:30 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


So your power, your wealth, your resources define you? That's less crass than being defined by what you consume? Anyhow, from the little documentary: "They have a simple philosophy: to defy circumstance."
posted by glasseyes at 3:34 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


So... your role as a consumer defines you.

No, your role as elegant badass defines you.
posted by swift at 5:36 PM on January 30 [6 favorites]


I think the minstrelism question is interesting, actually. My understanding is that Minstrel Shows were originally a way to cash in on the skills of African-American entertainers. Some of these entertainers' repertoire satirised the behavior of white Southerners; some of it satirised the behavior of African-Americans; some of it was simply straight entertainment. These entertainers' acts were copied by white entertainers, who were obviously less sympathetic to the African-American experience - presuming they knew much about it. I think the common point of reference between the sapeurs and Minstrel Shows is the use of dandified costumes as a sort of focal point to the performance. The original African-American performers used it as part of their satire; their imitators used it because that's what a Minstrel Show was, to them: singers with black faces and fancy, old-fashioned clothes.

The sapeurs are actually not coming from a very different place. They wear dandified upper-class outfits and perform routines apparently based on those of fashion models. I suppose this is aspirational satire, like slaves or former slaves dressing in discarded finery and pretending to be plantation owners. If that was as far as it went I'd say yeah, they're coming from the same place as the original minstrels and it would only be toxic if it were appropriated by whites. But the sapeurs have apparently struck off in a new direction: it's a whole social thing, between individual sapeurs and as a sort of communal performance art; they have something of a philosophy; it's not merely imitative or satirical, but genuinely creative. So to the extent that it is similar with minstrelism I'd say it's because they're both rooted in healthy aspirational satire of people who are vastly wealthier. But it's not actually connected with minstrelism, and it's quite amazing on a number of levels. AAA+++ WOULD PONDER AGAIN.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:53 PM on January 30 [5 favorites]


devious truculent and unreliable: It looks great, but isn't this minstrelism ?
Just as women can enjoy dressing traditionally feminine without giving up feminism, black people can dress provocatively without being minstrels. It's agency: adults have it.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:49 AM on January 31 [3 favorites]


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