Tariq Zaidi photographed a world-famous Congolese style tradition that’s changing with the times

Between 2017 and 2019, I traveled to Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to meet whole families of sapeurs, including female “sapeuses” and mini “sapes” in training.



a man wearing sunglasses and a hat: Nkodia Aurelie, 48-year-old businesswoman and sapeuse for 36 years, in Brazzaville, 2019, captured by Tariq Zaidi


© Tariq Zaidi
Nkodia Aurelie, 48-year-old businesswoman and sapeuse for 36 years, in Brazzaville, 2019, captured by Tariq Zaidi

My aim was to highlight the important role “La Sape” plays in their defiance of circumstance, through the stark contrast of the elegance of their dress against the harsh backdrop of their surroundings. The Congo is one of the poorest regions of the world and so, at first glance, followers of the “Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes” (the Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People) — La Sape — are an extraordinary sight.

Congolese people are known for taking pride in their appearance, yet La Sape takes the art of looking

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