Just reflecting – Wherever and whenever I meet HATIANS – People from HAITI, I’m always reminded of people from Congo DR and Congo Brazzaville. The character, the conduct, personality, mannerisms, behaviour, outlook and even the way they talk, interact with one another, eat, dance and dress.
The way we see people from Somalia, Djibouti and Eritria, with similar features like some of them fom Kenya and South Sudan. Congolese and Fashion. I have attached some pictures here. We know some people even in neigbouring Zambia who dress like these in very bright Colours.
There is a YouTube Documentary and short videos titled “The Congolese Dandies”. La Sape, an abbreviation based on the short phrase Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes. In French language literally means a “Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People”. Ambiance and Elegance indeed. This is also hinting to the French slang word sape which means “clothes” or sapé, which means “dressed up”. In Zambia they may say “Ukupopoka”- “Dressed to Kill”.
This reminds me of the once upon a time famous place dubbed “The Cotton Club” near Stephen Mpashi’s joint the Lazimen’s in Chilenje in Lusaka, Zambia in the Early 1990s when Zambia airways crew and travelers would bring back Shoes and Clothes (NYULA) from Monrovia, UK, India and VIALOS wear, sale and show off.
This addictive hobby or passion is a subculture centered on the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo respectively. The two closest neigbouring Capital Cities are just divided by the Mighty Congo River.
An adherent of La Sape is known as a sapeur or, if female, as a sapeuse. Some African First Ladies from the 1990s up to date could qualify to be called Sapeuse. Bright colours of clothes matching with shoes and Head Gear/Hair dressing (Ifisote Ifikulu) with matching bright colours. Sapology Extravaganza – La Sape is a unique movement based in Congo that unites fashion. Very conscious men who are ready to splurge money they don’t really have on designer clothes. Dressing in stark contrast with their surroundings, these elegant ambiance-makers become true local celebrities.
The fame comes at a price. The movement embodies the elegance in style and manners of colonial predecessor dandies. In the YouTube Documentary titled “The Congo Dandies” which I watched during COVID-19 self isolation recently, one fellow blew $8,000 lottery money on those flamboyant shoes and clothes. Another managed to steal from the Father’s shop and bankrupted the business thereby sending his younger brother to work grudgingly on an incomplete small garden farm plot!
Them La Sape are a crazy bunch of human beings. It is like a movement and a hobby by a group of possessed men and women – frenzied and willing to spend 95% of any income/ money they stumble upon on bright colour clothes whilst living in rented ram-shackles and wallowing in abject poverty. What a contrast. Imagine, a chap blew the $8,000 of lottery money buying Weston shoes and another one bankrupted his father’s business just to become a dandy.
One has opened up a Training School teaching the younger generation the trade of how to be a Congolese Dandy. Sick in the head for the sake of Fashion from Paris. Zambians, stay in your lane. Know the origins of things you want to blindly emulate! Congolese temunobe (are not your friends when it comes to dressing). If you can, watch this. https://youtu.be/W27PnUuXR_A