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).
To be a Sapeur in Kinshasa is to treat every trash-strewn alley or muddy street as a fashion catwalk. Inspired by Congolese rumba star Papa Wemba* and his Société des Ambianceurs et Persons Élégants* (le Sape), urban peacocks cheerfully adopted "Religion Kitembo”, literally the worship of clothes. "The Pope of the Sapes" himself appears to have undergone a conversion since his recent legal troubles. Photo gallery by Héctor Mediavilla. *sound