SAPE (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes)
A portrait story of the members of the SAPE from Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo.
by Francesco Giusti
In Congo-Brazzaville SAPE is an old passion that has never stopped, not even during war years. At the arrival of the French in Congo at the beginning of 9oo, the mith of elegance was born among young people working for the settlers. In 1922, Andrè Grenard Matsoua, well-known for his resistance to the settlers, was the first Congolese to come back from Paris, well dressed like a true French “Monsieur”, greatly admired by all his fellow citizens.
Today’s members of the SAPE consider themselves as artists and are respected and admired by the whole community. ” Sape is an art that is not referred to the means people have at their disposal. It’s a matter of harmony and matching colours”. Making up his own clothes, choosing the right accessories, surely answers a clothing code as well as the pleasure of being unique and original.
The members of the SAPE take a touch of glamour into their humble environment with their refined style and faultless clothes.
Everyone has his own repertory of gestures, marking him from all the others. Elegance is not the only important character. First of all, in fact, a true member of the SAPE is a gentleman and a pacifist. Every week-end the members of the SAPE, with their eccentric and amusing nicknames, gather in bars and fashionable dancing halls and parade in the streets among amused children and applauses of the passers-by.
These extemporized and spontaneous parades are the expression of a urban culture looking for new reference parameters and codes such as no-violence and elegance. They reflect the wish of young people in particular not to be left apart by society.