To be cool in Congo is to be a ''Sapeur.''
In Congolese slang, ''la Sape'' is La Societe des Ambianceurs et Personnes Elegantes, or "The Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance." The movement really started back in 1922.
For the Sapeur , the only religion to follow is fashion"Dandyism". Their manifesto is the society pages of glossy French-language publications like Africa Elite and Jeune Afrique.
Members have their own code of honor, codes of professional conduct and strict notions of morality:
1. A Congolese Sapeur is a happy man even if he does not eat, because wearing proper clothes feeds the soul and gives pleasure to the body.
2. A real Sapeur needs to be cultivated and speak fluently, but also have a solid moral ethic: that means beyond the appearance and vanity of smart, expensive clothing there is the moral nobility of the individual.
3. When the Sapeur expresses himself through the harmony of his clothes, he is returning his admiration to God.
4. A Sapeur does not shed blood. Your clothes do all the fighting for you, otherwise you are not fit to be called a Sapeur.
''Yves Saint Laurent suits, Yamamoto jackets, Marcel Lassance suits, Gresson shoes, Cacharel pants,'' said one Sapeur said when running down a shopping list of designer clothes he and friends brought from Paris last fall. To ease the struggles of their daily lives, the Sapeurs of Congo look at their labels.
It is obvious that there is an inconsistency between the way they live and the way they dress.The country is still in a fragile state. Hundreds die per day from easily preventable diseases and malnutrition. The environment has reached critical mass after years of war and poor treatment has devastated natural resources.
In a recent album dedicated to La Sape, Papa Wemba, one of Zaire’s top singers, crooned: ”Don’t give up the clothes. It’s our religion.”
Images by Hector Mediavilla
Now that's what I'd call a FashionJunkii !!
What do you think of the way they live ? Is it wrong?