La Sapologie

It’s not enough to wear a costume, pants, underwear, sunglasses, belt, shirt, shoes that could feed a Congolese family for two years. No it’s not. It’s not that he has to cheat, contraband, smuggle, steal in order for him to make his next purchase. No it isn’t. He has to flaunt it and make everyone stare and wonder at what they are looking at. Un sapeur. a Congolese Dandie. a member of the sapologie. A religion founded by the great priest Papa Wemba. One of the musical icons of Congolese Rumba, residing in Europe, he’s known for his expensive and eccentric tastes in clothing and for having instituted Sapologie and gathered a faithful following which is mostly constituted of men defining their manhood on their clothing apparel. Armani.Yamamoto. Cavalli. Gucci. Dolce & Gabbana. Ferre. Louis Vuitton. Whenever they meet, they throw at each other these brand names in a tug of war to prove, find their manhood.

Kinshasa. Brazzaville. Paris et Bruxelles are the four cities these aggressively stylish men who know no limits even jail sometimes to showcase their savoir faire and status through their clothes.

It isn’t enough for them to let their clothes speak for them, they have to convert every single doubter into a believer. They don’t dress to kill, but they dress to live the moment. They are groupies to these clothes. Ready to sacrifice father and mother for them.

Franscesco Giusti offers a glimpse of this subculture going back to the sixties.

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