For those out in London this month, Congolese Photographer Baudouin Mouanda’s first UK solo exhibition takes place at South London’s Gasworks until September. Mouanda’s images capture the everyday lives of Congolese Sapeurs, and explores the impact that Western or international culture has had on Congo’s urban subcultures.
Sapeurs, are members of the SAPE (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes/Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People) and have emerged in African and diaspora communities over the past 25 years. Often read as a post-colonial take on the European dandies of the late 18th and 19th century, this subculture made up of mostly young men, drape themselves in elegant sharp attire, creating flamboyant identities for themselves through their brightly colored suits, and luxurious swagger.
Other works in the exhibition, such as Délestage (2010) and Sur le trotoir du savoir (2011) looks at the community’s ways of coping with a collapsing energy infrastructure as well as focusing on the country’s students. Hip Hop et société (2009) on the other hand displays the politically outspoken Hip Hop scenes of Libreville and Brazzaville.
All together the body of works show the dissemination of international ideas of decadence and cutting-edge lifestyles within contemporary Congo, and the identities, ways of self-expression and aspirations resulting from this.
Baudouin Mouanda’s exhibition runs at London’s Gasworks gallery 155 Vauxhall Street, London SE11 5RH, until 18 September, with a free guided tour of the exhibition at 7pm on 26 August. Gasworks.org.uk