Thursday, September 13, 2007

Congolese Sape

Image Copyright © Héctor Mediavilla/Zone Zero -All Rights Reserved

Héctor Mediavilla has documented the unusal world of the 'sapeurs' while teaching photography in Congo. The 'sapeurs' or 'Sapes' are a subculture of men who derive their lifestyle and sense of well-being on being elegant and wearing fine French clothing. This subculture goes back more than four generations, however, it was virtually unheard of outside Congo, even in France, until Héctor came across it.

The Los Angeles Times has picked up on this culture, and recently published an article describing this sub-culture:

"The white man may have invented clothes, but we turned it into an art," said Congolese musician King Kester Emeneya, who helped popularize the Sape movement with the legendary Papa Wemba, who is often called the pope of the Sapes. Emulated and admired by a generation of African musicians, Wemba once called fashion his religion, advising devotees that what they wore was more important than school.

I don't know if the Sape sub-culture has any religious connotations, but the opening photograph in the multimedia slideshow shows a dapper Congolese Sape with a wall frame containing a poster asking "Jesus Is Coming Back...Are You Ready?".

The multimedia piece The Congolese Sape is produced and brought to viewers by the stellar Zone Zero.

Here's The Congolese Sape

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