[Image credit: Gentlemen of Bacongo – Daniele Tamagni]
Every time the ‘Gentlemen of Bacongo’ photographic exhibition came to London, I always managed to miss it, so whilst I was in Dakar I finally got to see some images from the book; on display as part of a wider exhibition on contemporary African photography entitled ‘Africa See You See Me’, that was being held at the Goethe Institute, during the Dak’art 2012 Biennale. Since its release in 2009, the book and accompanying exhibition have delighted and captivated audiences across the world, taking them on a fashionable journey through the streets of Bacongo, Brazzaville courtesy of the unique and immaculately dressed Sapeur’s, whose colourful and flamboyant yet elegantly stylish dress sense has spread beyond the borders of Bacongo to other local and international areas that include Kinshasa, London, Paris, and Brussels.
To say the Sapeurs are passionate about clothing would be an understatement; belonging to their exclusive club, La SAPE, ‘Le Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes’; comes at a hefty price, with discerning fashion houses including Armani, Yves Saint Laurent and Jean-Paul Gaultier being the suits of choice, reputations are said to be staked on designer brand labels, imitations just won’t do, and that includes the accessories. Once dressed in their finery informal contests are held as the Sapeurs of Brazzaville go head to head in a bid to ‘out ‘Sap’ each other!’.
[Image credits: Gentlemen of Bacongo – Daniele Tamagni]
The images in the ‘Gentlemen of Bacongo’, were snapped by Italian freelance photographer Daniele Tamagni, who first came across the Sapeur’s style in 2007 when he visited Brazzaville; returning a year later to gather the images for the book. Of the Sapeurs’ Daniele says, ‘…they are masters of style, they create their own style…’
…dedicated to the men in our lives as we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend…however fashionable they are, or not as the case may be!
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