Wednesday, 22 January 2014

17. ...But What of the Sapeurs?

"...And then what?"

Well, for members of the Congolese Society of Ambienceurs and Elegant Persons (SAPE), also known as "Sapeurs", the answer to the above is this: "to defy circumstance, and live with 'joie de vivre'".

Many of you will recognise the Sapeurs' aesthetic from Solange Knowles's 'Losing You' music video, or most recently from the new Guinness advertisement and accompanying mini-documentary set in Brazzaville, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although the undertones of capitalism and commerciality are inescapably present (the documentary does not end without footage of the Sapeurs sipping Guinness from the company's signature bottles), I wonder if there is in fact a certain beauty in the feeling that "things" not necessarily needed can have on their owner.

Members of the group would concur. For Hassan, 'people forget their problems' when a Sapeur is well-dressed. Congolese painter Prince Armel explains that 'being a Sapeurs is not about money. We borrow each other's clothes, because as we always say, it's not the cost of the suit thy counts. It's the worth of the man inside it...Even if I don't have any money in my pocket, I only need to wear a suit and tie to feel really at ease.'

Is it wrong for someone who has little to seek joy in "things"? Should I apply the same reasoning of my last post to those who want to forget a war taking place in their country, who work a modest job to keep their families afloat, or who find joie de vivre in the bright colours and tailored fabrics that contrast with their own (lives?)

Maybe things sometimes can serve a greater purpose.

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