Book Review: Gentlemen of Bacongo

Le Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (The Society of Advancement of People of Elegance, or SAPE) is a hierarchical subculture founded in the Congo during the dats of French colonixation. Followers strive to recreate a historical French elegance by donning a rainbow of dandy-like designer suits, holding cigars, and maintaining a strong morality in keeping with the self-proclaimed Ten Commandments Of Les Sapeurs. Most of the books juxtaposes raw images of these polished men against the impoverished residents of the Brazzaville suburb of Bacongo. At first, this comparison left me uneasy and disturbed by the bundles spent on refinement and clothing while living in such destitution. However, after reading the accompanying text, I came to see that the lack of political context is not the point of the story. This subculture enlivens the community, providing an escape from dispiriting poverty. In the end though, Tamagni conveys a skeleton of facts about this fashionable cult, and leaves a lurking sense of a mystery to be further investigated.

Gentlemen of Bacongo
by Daniele Tamagni – Trolley
reviewed by Avyn Omel (originally published in Worn Fashion Journal Issue 10)

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