Travelling to the Congo, specifically to the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville, British photographer Tariq Zaidi discovered a blossoming fashion subculture on the streets and in communities. Known as ‘La Sape’, the male sapeurs and female sapeuses strike poses as contemporary dandies, donning extravagant patterns, fine tailoring, and rakish accessories to create debonair looks that stand out from the crowd. Both children and adults live the style, dressing up in between day jobs as part of a culture that has evolved over decades taking in elements of colonial resistance, peaceful protest, and activism.
Explaining the style in a statement on the project, Zaidi says, “Traditionally passed down through the male line, many Congolese women have recently begun donning designer suits and becoming ‘sapeuses’. Le Sape is growing followers across central Africa with its exuberance and freedom of expression.” Zaidi’s images are collected together for a new book, entitled Sapeurs: Ladies and Gentleman of the Congo. More on the website and on Instagram.
Images © Tariq Zaidi