All Photos by Daniele Tamagni from “The Gentlemen of Bacongo”

Cultural hotspots are always an exciting find and when we read about photographer Daniele Tamagni’s new book that dropped in Trolley Books in London last week called “The Gentlemen of Bacongo,” we knew this was going to be influential.

Daniele captures the full dandy-esque scene with bright, colorful, attitudinal styles worn by today’s modern Le SAPE scene happening in Central Africa. SAPE, which stands for Society of Ambianceurs and Persons of Elegance originally started both as part of the hangover of the wealthy French in Central Africa and the desire of the Congolese to look fine, as well as a backlash movement in the ’50’s when President Mobuto banned the wearing of western suits (as a protest to stop so-called drug-selling “sapeurs”). In protest, rumba singer Papa Wemba founded the LeSAPE which continues to have tremendous sway among the savvy sartorialists of Africa and many other areas. Now, in Central Africa, sapeurs are considered part of the cultural heritage and tremendously influential in various pockets of scenesters in Paris as well as among top designers.

For example, as indicated in a quick story in The Fader, Paul Smith’s Spring 2010 women’s collection was inspired greatly by Daniele’s pictures from his recent book, based on what the ladies would look like if they were on the arm of a sapeur.

Although Wemba no longer sports the zoot suits of the past, and now lives in Paris where the scene is currently thriving, he still opts for bold versions of fashion such as Yohji Yamamoto (who, we just heard, may skirt bankruptcy after all thanks to investment from Integral Co.). Le SAPE or sapeurs, like Wemba, have a strict code of conduct and morality -a world within a world. For example, designer brands such as Pierre Cardin, Gaultier, Fendi, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent are extremely important. According to the book, “Unlike hip-hop gangs who are dressed in similar fine threads, there is no bloodshed here -here your clothes do all the fighting for you, otherwise you are not fit to be called a Sapeur.”

The preface of the book is written by Paul Goodwin, the Cross Cultural Curator of the Tate Gallery in London. There will also be a “Gentlemen of Bacongo” Exhibition at the London Newcastle Project Space in London from November 19-29, 2009.

With “The Gentlemen of Bacongo” hitting shelves, you can bet that the Central African trend is going to touch on many other cultural scenes in other parts of Europe and North America in the near future.

Styles of Central Africa%uFFFDs Sapeurs

Attitude and style are the weapons of power.