bacongo

Gentlemen of Bacongo

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African Digital Art Recommended Reading

For your inspiration pick up this bookGentlemen of Bacongo by Photographer Daniele Tamagni. The book features a subculture in the Congo where men express their creativity through their clothing. They are part of a cultural movement called Le Sape “a clique of extraordinarily dressed dandies from the Congo. In the midst of war and abject poverty, these men dress in tailored suits, silk ties, and immaculate footwear.”.

Description

The arrival of the French and Belgians to the Congo, at the beginning of the 20th Century, brought along the myth

of Parisian elegance among the Congolese youth working for the colonialists. In 1922, G.A. Matsoua was the first ever Congolese to return from Paris fully clad as an authentic French gentleman, which caused great uproar and much

admiration amongst his fellow countrymen. He was the first Grand Sapeur. The Sapeurs today belong to Le SAPE (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes) – one of the world’s most exclusive clubs. Members have their own code of honour, codes of professional conduct and strict notions of morality. It is a world within a world within a city.

Respected and admired in their communities, today’s sapeurs see themselves as artists. Each one has his own repertoire of gestures that distinguishes him from the others. They are also after their own great dream: to travel to Paris and to return to Bacongo as lords of elegance. Designer brands of suits and accessories are of the utmost importance to Sapeurs – Pierre Cardin, Roberto Cavalli, Dior, Fendi, Gaultier, Gucci, Issey Miyake, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, Yohji Yamamoto are their patron saints. Unlike some US hip-hop gangs who are dressed in similar fine threads, there is no bloodshed here here your clothes do all the fighting for you, otherwise you are not fit to be called a Sapeur.

5 thoughts on “Gentlemen of Bacongo”

  1. Growing up in the 80s I remember when the whole SAPE movement started by Djo Ballard in what was then Zaire. The article misses one of the great ways the movement spread, which was through Congolese music. Sape and sapeurs are inextricably linked to music. In a conflict torn country, I’m glad people can find nonviolent way to express themselves.
    On a more personal note, I’m not sure I’m so in love with the kinds of outfit they wear. I don’t think Pierre Cardin or Gucci- no offense to their great talent- need more subsidies from Africans. There are plenty of hungry and talnted African designers that could benefit from exposure through our patronage.
    This is great article though, I hope it inspires us to go even further in the quest reshape our continent for the better.

    1. I totally agree there are alot of African Designers with Amazing work. Dbanj nigeria’s very own and now Global Star has been known to wear tailored suits designed by africans. As an artist however I like the images the colour contrast. and the general concept. Maybe if it were a concept that can be carried forward with designs by Africans to Promote African talent

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