The society of elegant people

What is it about Congolese men who dress up in tropical weather like they're on a catwalk in Paris sometime in late Fall?

Image by Francesco Giusti.

Italian Francesco Giusti went to Brazzaville to photograph the fashion-obsessed La Societe des Ambianceurs et Personnes Elegantes (In English: The society of atmosphere setters and elegant people) also just simply known as Sapeurs, popular found among Congolese, especially in France and Belgium as well as on both sides of the Congo River and other places where there is a significant Congolese diaspora. As to the answer to my question in the title of this post (“What is it about Congolese men who dress up in tropical weather like they’re on a catwalk in Paris sometime in late Fall?”), I’d refer readers to the work of French anthropologist Rémy Bazanquisa, the Congolese historian scholar Didier Gondola or the Congoelse anthropologist Joseph Tonda.

Talking of elegance. Rare piece of film footage of The Mahotella Queens (without Mahlatini this time) recording their hit “Umculo Kawupheli” circa 1974. The song was released on the albums, “Duck Food” and “Soweto Never Sleeps–Classic Female Zulu Jive.” The clip also doubles as great footage of 1970s black South African urban life (recording studios, musicians, record stores, fashion, etcetera). Watch. just added to the history of useless lists with its new “Brave Thinkers” list, published in the latest issue of the magazine. The list is hyped as “Twenty-seven people with courageous ideas … that are shaping our future.” The list is also subject of its own page on the magazine’s website. Apparently a lot of work went into the production of the list. Yet the bulk of the entries reads like yesterday – Arthur Sulzberger Jr. (this is a guy who runs a family-owned newspaper that is struggling with the internet age), Ralph Nader (c’mon), and the creators of South Park (the series is a relic of the early 2000s)–or are of people who pop up on every other magazine list. Enough with the bitterness, you say. Did any Africans make it, you want to know? Yes, Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean Prime Minister and Opposition leader: “He stood his ground against Robert Mugabe and is now bringing some normalcy back to the country,” write some Atlantic Monthly editor.  I like Tsvangirai, but what “normalcy” is there in Zimbabwe? Is the Atlantic aware of the extrajudicial killings, attacks on opposition supporters or of their prosecution on trumped-up charges continuing?  Since The Atlantic published about normal times in Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai – in frustration at Mugabe and ZANU-PF’s reign of terror – withdrew from the unity government with Mugabe. There’s one thing the Atlantic doesn’t like about Tsvangirai though: “Tsvangirai is no saint: he’s … made oblique threats of popular violence.” The Atlantic likes its heroes to be non-violent always. Link.

Further Reading

Congo blues

Until Joseph Kabila publicly recuses himself from running for a third term, many Congolese will be suspicious of any dialogue proposed by the government.