BRAZZAVILLE, THE CAPITAL of the Republic of Congo, has seen its fair share of political upheaval and challenging circumstances over the years. But amidst this, a group of humble and refined gentlemen, called the Sapeurs, use their flair, creativity and sense of style to express their own unique identity and code of honour.
The Sapeurs, who count among them men up to 78 years old, are featured in a new Guinness ad and an accompanying documentary by director Héctor Mediavilla.
But who exactly are the Sapeurs?
Mediavilla seeks to answer this question in the documentary, exploring La SAPE - or Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo – and their origins in Brazzaville.
On the face of it, La SAPE seems to be a simply sartorial movement. The men involved take huge pride in their appearance, selecting the most unusual shirts, ties, shoes and suits possible. They take inspiration from 1920s dandy styles of former French colonists – but impose their own twist and attitude to express their creativity.
However, the documentary shows that La SAPE is about a lot more than just refined clothes. It focuses on the men inside the suits, why they do what they do, and what it means to them – and the unique role they play in their community.
In their everyday lives, the Sapeurs are farmers, taxi drivers, carpenters and labourers – ordinary working men. But after their day’s work, they transform. Within their local communities, they are a source of inspiration and positivity. They convene and talk – about “life, their family, helping people get back on track” – and dance or engage in friendly competition.
Dressing well can symbolise many things, and for a Sapeur their fine clothes stand for peace, integrity and honour. A Sapeur has to be respectful, non-violent, well-mannered and an inspiration through their attitude and behaviour.
One featured Sapeur, Hassan, describes being a Sapeur to being like a “star”. He says that when a well-dressed Sapeur walks down the street, people “forget their problems”.
The Sapeurs have a simple philosophy: to live with joie de vivre. “Even if I don’t have money in my pocket, I only need to wear a suit and tie to feel really at ease,” Prince Armel, one man interviewed in the documentary, says.
“A Sapeur respects people,” he adds. In fact, La SAPE’s ethos centres around respect – a Sapeur is “polite, not vulgar”. The men in the documentary all agree that violence and fighting simply “doesn’t go” with La SAPE.
The Sapeurs are ordinary men by day, who have taken it upon themselves to stand out and act with extraordinary vision and character. Despite their war-torn lives, the Sapeurs value creativity, integrity – and rising above circumstance to shine.
Guinness is celebrating the Sapeurs by featuring them in their newest Made of More series, showcasing extraordinary people around the world. The ad airs for the first time on Irish TV this January, but you can see it here first:Source: GuinnessEurope Source: GuinnessEurope
To find out more about the new Guinness ad and feature documentary on the ‘Sapeurs’ visit www.guinness.com
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