GUY TILLIM /SOUTH AFRICA: PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JEAN-PIERRE BEMBA ENTERS A STADIUM IN CENTRAL KINSHASA FLANKED BY HIS BODYGUARDS, JULY 2006. Courtesy: Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg 90 VINCENT BOISOT / FRANCE: KINSHASA SAPEURS, 2015 Like a modern reflection of earlier European colonial powers’ attempts to ‘civilize’ the indigenous population of the Congo, the street scene in both Kinshasa and Brazzaville is typified by the so-called Sapeurs: decadently dressed men in fashionable western clothing and expensive shoes who aspire to a European dandy ideal from the last century. The word sapeur refers to the Sape movement (Société des Ambianceurs et Persons Élégants), which arose in the wake of the successive French and Belgian colonizations of the Congo and the use of haute couture as wages for Congolese servants. The Sape movement spread in earnest after independence in the 1960s, and today the Kinshasa sapeurs serve as a symbol of the paradoxical relationship between a tabooized but visible colonial history and the optimistic belief in an independent Congo.
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