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

Often referred to as “dandies” of the Congo, “sapeurs” and “sapeuses” are men, women and children whose sharp and stylish way of dressing has caught the world’s attention. Below, photographer Tariq Zaidi writes about his own experiences immortalizing some of the followers of “La Sape,” describing how the tradition first started and how it has evolved with the times in an edited excerpt from the book “Sapeurs: Ladies and Gentlemen of the Congo.” All opinions expressed in this article belong to the author.

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.

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

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