The Yayas de l´elégance / Le voyage de la SAPE
Maria Jose Pavlovic
(University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
SAPE is the acronym for the Society of Ambience Makers and Elegant People.The followers of this movement call themselves sapeurs, men devoted to elegant dressing. SAPE becomes a performed experience encompassing a world of meanings and symbols.
Paper long abstract:
"The Yayas de l´elégance" is a film about the world of the SAPE. This is the acronym for the Society for Ambience Makers and Elegant People. Originally from the Republic of Congo, their followers are a popular phenomena both in Central Africa and Europe. Throughout elegant clothes and the manners that imitate those of the dandy, the sapeur´s main goal is the one of travelling to Paris. It is in the acknowledged fashion´s capital where they can improve their looks and live the parisian lifestyle. Only after this experience, they can return to the Congo and be recognised as real sapeurs. Therefore they will be call a "yaya", a very grand sapeur. The Sapeurs belong to a subculture that touches political and ethnical issues in the Congo. It is a complex cultural discourse that is often described as a paradox. A way of contesting poverty and unemployment through the use of modern symbols of status like expensive clothes. A pacific strategy created by the congolese in which they can negotiate conflict and ethnical divisions in which the weapons are the clothes. It is a display of manhood and at the same time, a performance of identity. An ambiguous competition in the search for power, recognition and legitimacy amongst their community. The film is an attempt of interpretation of this symbolic world and was inspired by Jean Rouch´s masterpiece "Les Maitres Fous".