The Congo Dandies Le Sapeurs (le sape)

Explore The World of LE SAPE- or SOCIETY of ELEGANT persons living in Congo and their origins in Brazzaville.

LE SAPE

Sapeurism is a subculture that is advancing another picture for the two African Countries. Residence of Brazzaville and Kinshasa.

Captions of BRAZZAVILLE slums, city, congo map, and LE SAPE.
Captions of KINSHASA city, map, slums, and LE SAPE.

Understanding Culture from the Textbook, Chapter 3

This is LE SAPE definition of "Culture."

Culture has been defined in many ways—from a pattern of perceptions that influence communication to a site of contestation and conflict. Because there are many acceptable definitions of culture, and because it is a complex concept, it is important to reflect on the centrality of culture in our own interactions. The late British writer Raymond Williams (1983) wrote that culture “is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language” (p. 89). And this very complexity indicates the many ways in which it influences intercultural communication (Williams, 1981). Culture is more than merely one aspect of the practice of intercultural communication. How we think about culture frames our ideas and perceptions.

The word Sapeur derives from the FRENCH acronym 'SAPE,' short for 'Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes,' and the term refers to Congolese men who take pride in dressing in stylish, elegant, and colorful clothing. The usual pieces of attire includes suave suits, silk ties, bowler hats, and sometimes even monocleus, conjuring aesthetical links to the Frances trendy salons of the 1920's. However, unlike many fashion trends where only the rich can afford to keep up to date, Sapeurism is associated with hard working middle class men who are HAPPY to save up their well earned cash to afford these expensive outfits.

Check out LE SAPE in some of their expensive fashion in Congo below:

The Subculture of 'LE SAPEUR.'
Image of a Book on Gentlemen of Bacongo

The Subculture is heavily influenced by 18th and 19th century DANDYISM, which saw many British and French middle class men place particular focus on their dress, posture and language in an attempt to appear of a higher class. This may seem somewhat shallow in retrospect, but at the time it was seen by many as a sign of taking control of ones destiny, and it is this meaning that seems to resonate in Congo. -Andrew Kingford Smith

The labels that refer to particular identities are an important part of intercultural communication. These labels do not, of course, exist outside of their relational meanings. It is the relationships—not only interpersonal but social—that help us understand the importance of the labels. (CH 3 Textbook)

LETS BETTER UNDERSTAND THIS DIFFERENT SUBCULTURE:

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”.

Well Dressed Sapeur
Extraordinarily Dressed Dandies from Brazzaville, Congo

Sapeurism looks past the damaging stereotypes and focuses on creativity and individualism. "The Sapeurs can only exist in peacetime.....a message from an individual on the LE SAPE culture....To me they're a sign of better things: Stability and Tranquility. They indicate that our nation is returning to normal life after years of civil war." -Andrew Kingford Smith

Les Sapeur Nikki Billie Ready To Wear Clothing

Many scholars now realize that human communication is often more creative than predictable and that reality is not just external but also internally constructed. We cannot identify all of the variables that affect our communication. Nor can we predict exactly why one intercultural interaction seems to succeed and another does not. (Chapter 2 Textbook)

Learning About Others

It is important to remember that the study of cultures is actually the study of other people. Never lose sight of the humanity at the core of the topic. Try not to observe people as if they are zoo animals. Communication scholar Bradford Hall (1997) cautions against using the “zoo approach” to studying culture: When using such an approach we view the study of culture as if we were walking through a zoo admiring, gasping and chuckling at the various exotic animals we observe. One may discover amazing, interesting and valuable information by using such a perspective and even develop a real fondness for these exotic people, but miss the point that we are as culturally “caged” as others and that they are culturally as “free” as we are. ( p. 14) Remember that you are studying real people who have real lives, and your conclusions about them may have very real consequences for them and for you. Cultural studies scholar Linda Alcoff (1991/1992) acknowledges the ethical issues involved when students of culture try to describe the cultural patterns of others; she recognizes the difficulty of speaking “for” and “about” others who have different lives. Instead, she suggests, students of culture should try to speak “with” and “to” others. Rather than merely describe others from a distance, it’s better to engage others in a dialogue about their cultural realities. Learn to listen to the voices of others, to cultivate experiential knowledge. Hearing about the experiences of people who are different from you can broaden

your ways of viewing the world. Many differences—based on race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, age, and so on—deeply affect people’s everyday lives. Listening carefully as people relate their experiences and their ways of knowing will help you learn about the many aspects of intercultural communication. (Chapter 1, Intercultural Communication Textbook)

“A Sapeur respects people." In fact, La SAPE 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. -theJournal.ie

A DOCUMENTARY AND INTERVIEW ON THE CONGO DANDIES

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CULTURE AND COMMUNICATION

The relationship between culture and communication is complex. A dialectical perspective assumes that culture and communication are interrelated and reciprocal. That is, culture influences communication, and vice versa. Thus, cultural groups influence the process by which the perception of reality is created and maintained: “All communities in all places at all times manifest their own view of reality in what they do. The entire culture reflects the contemporary model of reality” (Burke, 1985, p. 11). However, we might also say that communication helps create the cultural reality of a community. (Chapter 3, Intercultural Communication Textbook)

UNDERSTANDING THE DANDISM SUBCULTURE

A dandy (also known as a beau or gallant) is term historically used to describe a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies, pursued with the appearance of nonchalance in a cult of self. A dandy could be a self-made who strove to imitate an aristocratic lifestyle despite coming from a middle-class background, especially in late 18th- and early 19th-century Britain. -Wikipedia Definiton

Power in Intercultural Interactions Power is also the legacy, the remnants of the history that leaves cultural groups in particular positions. We are not equal in our intercultural encounters, nor can we ever be equal. Long histories of imperialism, colonialism, exploitation, wars, genocide, and more leave cultural groups out of balance when they communicate. Regardless of whether we choose to recognize the foundations for many of our differences, these inequalities influence how we think about others and how we interact with them. They also influence how we think about ourselves—our identities. These are important aspects of intercultural communication. It may seem daunting to confront the history of power struggles. Nevertheless, the more you know, the better you will be positioned to engage in successful intercultural interactions. (Chapter 4, Intercultural Communication Textbook)

“Dandy," Martin replied, once again pleased with his response. A girl can make a guy feel good, great, and even fabulous, but how often does a lady hear that her man is feeling dandy? Not often, he guessed.” ― Matthew Dicks
FUN QUOTES

Different generations often have different philosophies, values, and ways of speaking (Strauss & Howe, 1997). For example, recent data show that the millennium generation (or Gen Y, those born between 1982–2001) are more diverse and globally oriented and more knowledgeable about computers and technology than any preceding generation. They are also more optimistic, more committed to contributing to society and more interested in life balance between work and play than the previous, Gen X, group (those born between 1961–1981) (Strauss & Howe, 2006). This also is reflected in the way they learn and work (e.g., multitasking, use of multimedia, etc.) (Chapter 5, Intercultural Communication Textbook)

Being Different from the Norm. I AM A DANDY.

Learning About Others

It is important to remember that the study of cultures is actually the study of other people. Never lose sight of the humanity at the core of the topic. Try not to observe people as if they are zoo animals. Communication scholar Bradford Hall (1997) cautions against using the “zoo approach” to studying culture: When using such an approach we view the study of culture as if we were walking through a zoo admiring, gasping and chuckling at the various exotic animals we observe. One may discover amazing, interesting and valuable information by using such a perspective and even develop a real fondness for these exotic people, but miss the point that we are as culturally “caged” as others and that they are culturally as “free” as we are. ( p. 14) Remember that you are studying real people who have real lives, and your conclusions about them may have very real consequences for them and for you. Cultural studies scholar Linda Alcoff (1991/1992) acknowledges the ethical issues involved when students of culture try to describe the cultural patterns of others; she recognizes the difficulty of speaking “for” and “about” others who have different lives. Instead, she suggests, students of culture should try to speak “with” and “to” others. Rather than merely describe others from a distance, it’s better to engage others in a dialogue about their cultural realities. Learn to listen to the voices of others, to cultivate experiential knowledge. Hearing about the experiences of people who are different from you can broaden

your ways of viewing the world. Many differences—based on race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, age, and so on—deeply affect people’s everyday lives. Listening carefully as people relate their experiences and their ways of knowing will help you learn about the many aspects of intercultural communication. (Chapter 1, Intercultural Communication Textbook)

Les Seur is our Subculture
In typical dandy fashion, the Sapeurs consider themselves artists and are respected and admired in their communities. Sapeurs are typically invited to events such as weddings to add a touch of elegance to special occasions. Yet quite uncharacteristic is the Sapeur’s code of conduct, being a Sapeur is not only about dressing and looking amazing, it is also about impeccable manners. It is about style, it is about gestures that differentiate one Sapeur from others. A Sapeur has to be respectful, non-violent, well-mannered and an inspiration through their attitude and behavior.

REFERENCES:

W. (2014, April 10). Les Sapeurs – The Congo Fashion Subculture. Retrieved March 23, 2017, from http://unusual.info/2014/04/10/les-sapeurs-the-congo-fashion-subculture

Guinness Meets the Sapeurs of Congo. (2017, January 23). Retrieved March 23, 2017, from http://www.messynessychic.com/2014/01/16/guinness-meets-the-sapeurs-of-congo/

Cai, D. A. (2010). Intercultural communication. Studying intercultural communication.

Created By
Sherina Scott Silla
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