Being a Sapeur is more than a way of dressing, more than a hobby and more than a means of earning money and respect. It’s a prestigious brotherhood with its own moral and social codes and ultimately it is a way of life and survival. Many use it as an escape to forget daily problems and hardships, explaining that the dressing up and parading in the streets makes them feel important, allowing them to forget about their daily struggles in a chaotic Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. While they are often treated as next-door celebrities, their embodied art form brings them both a touch of glamour and a reprieve from the humble, bleak, and even destitute neighbourhoods that they have spent their entire lives in.
Rival Sapeur groups compete for attention and visibility in the streets, at events and on television and radio shows. Most will never experience first hand the sights of the fashion capitals of the world, but the movement can not be narrowly defined as a capitalistic, over-consuming, obsession and imitation of Western standards of beauty and success. SAPE is a unique subculture within Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo. and the project was photographed in Kinshasa between 2012-2019
(1967) is a Swedish photographer based in Cape Town, South Africa. During his 35-year long career, he has worked in over 100 countries covering a wide range of international news events, the first Gulf War, conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Haiti. Since 2000, Pettersson has focused on African stories and long-term projects such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and documenting democracy in South Africa. His pictures have won critical acclaim, awards and been published and exhibited widely. He has published two books, Rainbow Transit
(Dewi Lewis 2013), looking at democracy in South Africa and African Catwalk
(Kehrer 2016), exploring the African fashion industry.