Tags / brazzaville
On March 24th, Dennis Sassou Nguesso won the presidential election in the Republic of Congo, making him one the oldest rulers in the continent after winning a referendum last September that changed the constitution, allowing candidates aged over 70 and scrapping the two-term limit. But this small Central African country has a cultural movement that transcends politics and aims to become a national symbol.
Yves François Ngatsongo, also known locally by the nickname Yves Saint Laurent, after the world famous fashion designer, is president of “France Libre”, the first association of Sapeur in the Republic of Congo. “La Sape” (Societé des Ambianceurs et Personnes Elegantes) was born during the colonial years.
What started as a resistance movement toward French ruling quickly became one of Brazzaville´s most characteristic symbols, to the point that Irish beer Guinness used them in one of their commercials as a symbol of authenticity. Taxi drivers, teachers or artisans spend their little wages in expensive clothes from Europe to be part of these African dandies.
Sape is becoming increasingly popular among women. They adopt all the “man” attitude that goes with “La Sape”, including the dress code.
On March 8th, sapeurs from different countries took part in a festival to help promote women sapeurs as part of the International Women´s Day.
Republic of Congo and DRC have a never ending battle on where “La Sape” was invented. Despite past tensions, this international festival aimed to put aside those differences and bring the two countries closer.
“L´Hotel de Préfecture” in Brazzaville became the scenario for this international gathering where Sapeurs from different countries walked the red carpet.
Yves François Ngatsongo and “La France Libre” did not miss the opportunity to witness this unique event.
Whereas “Sape” from Republic of Congo has a more classic style, DRC is more extravagant.
Fulizioni from Paris surrounded by supporters.
Ahmed Yalla is a wealthy business man that a few years ago decided to promote “La Sape”. Known as “crocodile man” and widely acclaimed as President of all sapeurs, he organised this international festival.
Yves François Ngatsongo at Maya Maya international Aeroport waiting for the arrival of Paris diaspora.
Sapeurs from France, DRC and Ivory Coast came to Brazzaville to be part of the festival that took place on the International Women´s Day.
“La France Libre” can be hired to promote any kind of activities. In this case, The Ministry of Culture hired its members to go to Brazzaville´s only university, Marien Ngouab, and promote a conference by Beninese speaker Innocent Peya.
From left to right Yolande, Blandine and “First Lady” Pelagie, Yves François Ngatsongos wife.
Disagreements are very common when money is distributed. Thibaud argues with other members of “La France Libre”.
He lives in the outskirts of Brazzaville selling pots for up to $50 a piece.
Whoever hires them agrees on a fee and covers for transportation and drinks.
Thibaud is a taxi driver. He makes around $25 per day after paying the owner of the taxi.
Chameleon (right) with his family. He´s a respected member within “La France Libre”.
Most Sapeurs keep a family tradition that sometimes can be traced back to their grand-fathers. Chameleon´s daughter Reine wants to follow the footstep of his father.
Yves François Ngatsongo founded “La France Libre” in 1996, becoming the first association of Sapeurs in the Republic of Congo.
DRC contestants Soudi Fatou (left) and Thethe Ntumba talk backstage between acts.
Stella gets her make up done for the “native” part of the event, where music from all 5 countries is played.
One of the many wardrobe changes that take place during the event.
The view from backstage as participants in Miss Mama Kilo 2015 enter the stage.
The "native" performance is the last act contestants have to perform alone in front judges and a packed crowd.
Soudi Fatou dances during the native performance. This year's jury came from Mali, Ivory Coast and Benin.
Nelly Okombi, from Republic of Congo, won the 7th edition of Miss Mama Kilo. As the new Miss Mama Kilo, she gets a weekend trip to Paris offered by one of the sponsors. This is Congo's third crown in seven years, but all of the contestants received cash prizes regardless of the their result.
Preparations continue until the day of the event at the Olympic Palace Hotel.
The event starts at 19H00, however contestants arrive early in the morning to get their hair and make up done.
Two contestants help each other prepare their hair in the backstage area of Miss Mama Kilo 2015.
Make up artists work all night on the day of Miss Mama Kilo. The event has 6 wardrobe changes, and contestants' makeup has to match each style.
Stella waits with the other contestants in anticipation, just moments before going on stage.
All 18 contestants carry their countries' flags. Republic of Congo was the most represented with five contestants.
Nelly Okombi from Congo took home the title of Miss Mama Kilo 2015.
The last rehearsal takes place at the Olympic Palace Hotel the day before the ceremony.
Magalie Opangot from Republic of Congo (left) and Jenny Elongo from Central African Republic share a moment together during rehearsal. It´s the third time they participate side by side in Miss Mama Kilo.
Rosine surveys the runway during the last rehearsal at the Continental Palace Hotel. She directs contestants with a firm hand at all times.
Master Kif has been a tailor for more than 20 years. He runs a small shop in Brazzaville.
Stella Amoussou, from Porto Novo, Benin, runs a little cosmetic shop in Brazzaville with her family.
Julie Mangono, a comedian from Kinshasa, and Stella are close. Miss Mama Kilo has a friendly atmosphere where contestants always help each other out.