The Gentleman of Bocongo

The first shipment of The Gentleman of Bocongo is due to arrive at Trolley Books HQ in London today, and a sneak peak of what’s inside went up on the site earlier this month. The book pays homage to that sartorially superior breed of man known as the sapeur, and photographer Daniele Tamagni captures all his subjects in full dandy regalia.


The history of the sapeurs dates back to 1950s Congo, to a rumba singer by the name of Papa Wemba. Wemba founded Le SAPE (Society of Ambianceurs and Persons of Elegance) as a reaction to President Mobutu’s prohibition of the western suit, and he still unofficially holds court to this day. Photographer Liz Johnson-Artur shot Wemba for FADER #42 as part of a fashion story on the sapeur club scene in Paris, and these days you’re more likely to see him draped in head-to-toe Yohji or Comme, than any of the outlandish zoot suits he wore back in the early days. Right now though, it’s the new SAPE generation in Central Africa that is getting all the fashion bragging rights, since apparently Sir Paul Smith based his entire Spring 2010 women’s wear collection on Tamagni’s new pictures, dressing all his ladies as if they were on the arm of a sapeur.

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POSTED October 5, 2009 1:15PM IN STYLE NEWS Comments (5) TAGS: ,

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  1. Qiana says:

    FYI, according to his website bio, Daniele is a man, not a woman as you reference in your first paragraph. http://www.photodantam.com/biography.html

    Considering the horrifying incidents of rape happening in the Congo, I was skeptical that this photographer could be a woman.

  2. Chioma Nnadi says:

    Thanks for catching that—although i’m not sure that the sex of the photographer has any bearing on that to be honest. I think the images might actually have been shot in the Central African Republic.

  3. reader says:

    Rape happens in all the fashion capitals – NYC, Paris, Milan – you name it. So I don’t see what bearing that has on the gender of the photographer. Evil coexists with good everywhere.

  4. sexliesandvideotape says:

    now this is def a book worth checking out.

  5. Fromivc says:

    I’m known as Fromivc and would like to say that as a child i was into the sapeurs culture which meant having to wear yours best outfits with shoes called soulier. Mainly a mens style but women also do or did play part. Having the best suit normally along with a tie, sometimes sunglasses to look cooler.
    http://uk.ei42.com/albanco/ shop online for suits