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"There is Sape only when there is peace."
November 14, 2010 7:19 PM   Subscribe

The Congolese Sape is a photoessay by Héctor Mediaville on Sapeurs, a male subculture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is defined by its haute couture clothes. Blogger Eccentric Yoruba wrote a post for steampunk blog Beyond Victoriana on Sapeurs which was crossposted to Racialicious detailing the history of the movement and linking it to dandyism in general and explaining its political significance in the 70s, when it was championed by music legend Papa Wemba (live footage from the 90s and 70s).
posted by Kattullus (24 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
To me there seems to be a spiritual link between Sapeurs and the Mods of 1960s Britain and today's Harajuku teens.

Also, forgot... essay link via peacay.
posted by Kattullus at 7:21 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm familiar with this image; it's nice to see that there are more that go with it.

Points for the Flash interface. Despite the music, it's one of the best (read: most unobtrusive) I've seen.
posted by clorox at 7:28 PM on November 14, 2010


It's been pointed out to me that sapeurs and Héctor Mediaville have been posted about before, back in 2006. I think this isn't the same link, and in either case the link in the old post is broken.
posted by Kattullus at 7:36 PM on November 14, 2010


I've probably said it before here, but holy shit I want to go visit Kinshasa. Are there any Mefites there willing to show me around? I'm serious.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:55 PM on November 14, 2010


That is exceptionally beautiful.
posted by texorama at 8:20 PM on November 14, 2010


Prepare the B-2s, our worst fears have been realized: hipsters have broken out of US containment.
posted by pwnguin at 8:24 PM on November 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Had the pleasure of seeing Papa Wemba live on a couple of occasions - sharply-dressed big band looked a bit out of place at the crusty folk festivals they were playing but no-one seemed to mind and a good time had by all. Always wanted to believe his side of the story in the immigration scandal, but not really in a position to know and maybe he was motivated more by money than humanitarian concerns.
posted by Abiezer at 8:30 PM on November 14, 2010


pwnguin: hipsters have broken out of US containment.

You do know that not every dude in a suit is a hipster, right? Particularly not when the look is so obviously sincere.
posted by pts at 8:37 PM on November 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


As I understand it, some of the Soukous stars of the 80's had clothing lines and some of their songs made reference to fashion and Sapeurs. Reminds of the times I saw Kanda Bongoman. Here he is wearing a variety of eye-catching outfits whilst pedaling a boat and dancing by the water.
posted by Jode at 8:39 PM on November 14, 2010


The dude in the first link just looks like a sharp dresser. The ones in the next on look kind of over-the-top. Which may be the point, I don't know.
posted by jonmc at 8:43 PM on November 14, 2010


Also discussed (four years) previously.
posted by biddeford at 8:45 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


The site in the first link makes excellent use of the Kronos Quartet to accompany the photos. Very, er... tasteful.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 8:52 PM on November 14, 2010


Prepare the B-2s, our worst fears have been realized: hipsters have broken out of US containment.

Are you kidding me? If US hipsters were this put together it this could be a great country again.
posted by Scoo at 9:23 PM on November 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


There are some great photos by Francesco Giusti too.
posted by unliteral at 9:42 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great post. Amazing pics, heartrending and interesting. Thanks.

Enter the SAPE.

Related, Soukous Radio.
posted by nickyskye at 11:01 PM on November 14, 2010


Love the guy in the kilt (the policeman). So elegant. Wish more guys dressed as snappy where I live. Thanks for the post!
posted by shinyshiny at 11:42 PM on November 14, 2010


In contrast.

Africa hot, I like am so
I know what to wear but my friends don't know
Him put him socks, him put him shoe
Him put him pant, him put him singlet
Him put him trouser, him put him shirt
Him put him tie, him put him coat
Him come cover all with him hat
Him be gentleman
Him go sweat all over
Him go faint right down
Him go smell like shit
Him go piss for body, him no go know
Me I no be gentleman like that

[Chorus]
I no be gentleman at all o!

I be Africa man original
I be Africa man original
I no be gentleman at all, at all
I be Africa man original
I be Africa man original


Dissidence takes all forms.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:20 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sapeurs are quite visible in the Congolese neighbourhood of Matongé in Brussels. There's also quite some contrast between them and the (generally) younger gold-bedecked hiphoppers.

The one thing that annoyed me about Eccentric Yoruba's post, is that he repeatedly confuses the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Belgian colony) and the neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville (former French colony).
posted by Skeptic at 2:54 AM on November 15, 2010


I am the opposite of this.

People should pay me not to go to their weddings.
posted by srboisvert at 3:26 AM on November 15, 2010


I remember this expression from Paris in the 80s.

«Pauvre con, il est mal sapé.»
posted by Wolof at 4:40 AM on November 15, 2010


From the Racialious article:

Papa Wemba challenged these strict dress codes by insisting that it should be a pleasure rather than a crime to wear clothes from Paris and by setting an example for impressionable young men by dressing outlandishly.

I appreciate it when someone can use a word so thoroughly well as the author does with "outlandishly" in the above.
posted by ServSci at 5:11 AM on November 15, 2010


what an awesome post. Good shit Ktullz.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:55 AM on November 15, 2010


Also can I admit something? Did anyone else notice this:

"This style also served to differentiate black dandies from other dandies, most notably, the Macaroni dandies whose fabulous style of dress was thought of as obscene."

so... I went and looked for Macaroni Dandies (or Maccaroni, turns out...) and in the course of my search, came across this:
""Macaroni," the most bemusing word in "Yankee Doodle Dandy," refers to the fact that Italy and France were centers of European haute couture. The joke was that a colonial—a Yankee "dandy"—would stick a feather in his tricorne or coonskin cap and think himself as fashionable as any man à la mode in Paris or Rome."
I always thought " ...and called it 'macaroni'" was a nonsense lyric...
posted by ServSci at 1:30 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I always thought " ...and called it 'macaroni'" was a nonsense lyric...
Me too, interesting trivia, thanks ServSci. This sort of information makes eyes either light up or glaze over at dinner tables. But I'm a dad and a mefite, so it's a given.
posted by unliteral at 5:02 AM on November 16, 2010


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