Inspire Me: The Congelese Sape

Sometimes a picture or pictureS say more than one million words. But since I can’t seem to stop typing, let me just say these are the most elegant and moving and happy pictures I’ve seen of any man in a long time…. (well if you don’t count president obama (wink, lol)). Anyway check these out and afterwards go see them with the music and all, here. Oh and Hector Mediavilla, I must say sir, job well done- you have completely inspired me and you’ve absolutely made my day. Thank you.

The sapeur Lamame takes a ride to the outskirts of Brazzaville. In this occasion he is dressed in dressed in a tailcoat and covers his right eye with a black patch.

A young sapeur of the outskirts of Brazzaville puts on his yellow tie in the catholic church, Notre Dame, exhibiting his sapeur skills. Young, almost debutant, sapeurs are encouraged to exhibit their clothing and gestures so as to give them confidence and pride.

Three of the most famous sapeurs of the Mocongo neighborhood get ready to go out on a Sunday afternoon to show off their sapeur skills. Doyen Germain on the left, Walkise in the entrance of his house, and Wily Covary on the right side.

The sapeur Delegrace is also known as the icon of beautiful colors.

Severin Mouyengo, who has been a sapeur since the seventies, show some of his pictures that prove his past in the Sape movement.

The sapeur Allureux decides to put on his maroon socks because they match perfectly with his elbow tie. The rules of 3 colors- one should not match more than 3 colors at time- is one of the principles of the Sape elegance.

Ferolle Nguaby is dressed in a Scottish kilt an homage to the Prince Charles of Wales. He is part of the Picadily group of sapeurs from the Mungali neighborhood. These sapeurs are, nowadays, among the most innovative in the country.


And there you have it, only a few of the pictures and captions that have made my day. After viewing those pictures I think to myself “My gosh, why have not these men been featured in Vogue or GQ (maybe they have and I’m just late). They surely deserve to be on the cover of some major publication”. If you have the time, please read all of the excerpt below (from

The arrival of the French to the Congo, at the beginning of the 20th Century, brought along the myth of Parisian elegance among the Congolese youth working for the colonialists. In 1922, G.A. Matsoua was the first–ever Congolese to return from Paris fully clad as an authentic French gentleman, which caused great uproar and much admiration amongst his fellow countrymen. He was the first Grand Sapeur.Respected and admired in their communities, today’s sapeurs see themselves as artists. Their refined manners and impeccable style in their attire bring a little glamour to their humble surroundings. Each one has his own repertoire of gestures that distinguishes him from the others. They are also after their own great dream: to travel to Paris and to return to Bacongo as lords of elegance.

What is Sape and who are the sapeurs :

Sape is French slang for “dressing with class”. The French often use the expression “il est bien sape” to talk about a sharp dressed man. The term “sapeur” is a new African word that refers to someone that is dressed with great elegance.However, the Congolese sapeurs are not only concerned about elegance, but also with good manners, politeness and morality. Generally, they only dress up on weekends and special occasions. Designer brands of suits and accessories are a big deal to Sapeurs. Complete attire can cost up to 1500 euros, although ironically, many of them don’t have a job. To get the whole outfit that can get them the sought-after prestige can take several years. Most of them start up with suits borrowed from established sapeurs that initiate them in the secrets of the Sape.The Congolese Sape, except for very rare exceptions, is a man thing, which sometimes is inherited whereas most of the times is acquired by choice.

Importance of the sapeurs in the Congolese culture:

A sapeur, by definition is a non-violent person, despite the 3 civil wars that have taken place since the independence. They stand for an exquisite morality, but as they say “There can only be Sape when there is peace”. They represent an illusion that has been supported by the government itself, trying to normalize a post-war situation. The Société des Ambienceurs et des Persones Elegantes interrupted its activities when the civil war started in 1997, and did not reinitiate its activities until 2002. Their motto became “Let’s drop the weapons, let us work and dress elegantly.”

They are a symbol of national identity. The common Congolese are proud to be the most elegant among Africans. The sapeurs would be the elite somehow. The famous Kinshasa (capital of RDC or former Zaire) musician Papa Wemba, who often visited Brazzaville, became fascinated by the sapeurs and their ways. It was him who made popular and gave an international dimension to the Sape phenomenon in the 60’s with his songs. They have become somehow a model for the rest of the country. Rich people and especially politicians are forced to dress elegantly and be polite. The most important ministers hired “Romario” the sapeur as an advisor when he returned from Paris.

The Other Side of Africa:

The Congolese Sape is also an unknown and extravagant reality that shows to us a different side to Africa, unlike the usual wars, famines, safaris, or papier-mâché tribalism. Poor Africans (the vast majority) also have an everyday life, which is often happy and hopeful despite the hardships. Sape exemplifies this.

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  1. definitely inspiring

  2. Rexraym San Francisco, Ca

    Thanks for sharing this find! This is truely an inspiring piece. I’d love to learn more about the Sape culture, they sound like some kind of new wave African buddhists. Dress with elegance, good manners, politeness and morality.

  3. yeah… i loved the article.

  4. thats how we do it in congo they started since the time began before the white man even came they always cared about the way they looked and present there selves check out

  5. This is Héctor,

    I am happy you liked my work. I just came across this blog by chance…


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