One of the most remarkable cultural phenomena of late.. the sapeurs of Congo Brazzaville (Congo Republic)  and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). The former was ruled by a one party Marxist-Leninist state for a time and the latter by an anti-communist dictator Mobutu Sese Seko from the mid-1960s  until 1997. Both governments suppressed what they saw as cultural signs of colonial legacy and Western decadence; yet this ultimately provoked a vibrant cultural backlash that centres on the stylish gentlemen of Le SAPE (Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes = The Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People). We will see more in class.

The BBC reported on the embrace of sapeur on advertising by the beer brand Guinness.


Documentary version sponsored by Guinness…

An interesting 15 minute report in French, for those comfortable with or learning the language, on Sape culture, its broader context and focusing in part on a guy known as ‘the Japanese’ because of his love of Yohji Yamamato and other Japanese designers.

A collection of sapeur images, edited with an operatic soundtrack, from the Italian fan..


About Christopher Pokarier

australian professor of business & governance @ waseda university in tokyo researching cultural industries, economic nationality & borders, university internationalisation

Comments are closed.