Sapeurs

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British photographer Tariq Zaidi presents a fashion subculture of Kinshasa & Brazzaville: La Sape, Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes ("Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People"). Its followers are known as Sapeurs (Sapeuses for women). Most have ordinary day jobs as taxi-drivers, tailors and gardeners, but as soon as they clock off they transform themselves into debonair dandies. Sashaying through the streets they are treated like rock stars – turning heads, bringing ‘joie de vivre’ to their communities and defying their circumstances. Traditionally passed down through the male line, many Congolese women and their children have recently begun donning designer suits. As Papa Wemba (1949–2016, Congolese singer and fashion icon who popularized Sape) once said: White people invented the clothes, but we make an art of it.

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