at Newspace - Center for Photography, Portland, USA

Héctor Mediavilla’s series, S.A.P.E. documents the Sapeurs of Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo. The term Sapeur comes from la sape, which is French slang meaning “to dress with elegance and style”. It is also the abbreviation for Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes, (Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People).

“At the beginning of the 20th century when the French arrived in Congo, the myth of the Parisian elegance was born among the youth of the Bakongo ethnic group, who were working for the colonizers. At that time, the white man was considered superior, someone showing better manners and elegance.

In 1922, Grenard André Matsoua was the first Congolese ever to come back from Paris dressed as a genuine French. His arrival caused indescribable commotion and admiration among his fellow countrymen; he became known as the first Grand Sapeur.

Having the respect and admiration of his community, today’s Sapeurs consider themselves artists. They add a touch of glamour to their humble environment through their refined manners and impeccable dressing styles. Each of them is unique showing a particular repertoire of gestures. 
They all share the same dream: To go to Paris and return to Brazzaville as an aristocrat of supreme elegance.” (Héctor Mediavilla)  

Exhibition dates:
May 4 - June 2, 2013

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