Photo Gallery: Congolese Dandies Make Fashion a Religion

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Making fashion a religion, Congolese dandies have created a subculture that considers the possession of status symbols the pinnacle of success. Known locally as Sapeurs, men of all ages flaunt designer fashions even if they really can’t afford them. Both celebrated musicians and the unemployed make up the membership of Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (SAPE), which roughly translates to a society of elegant people that have an ambiance about them. Beyond being stylish, Sapeurs are also confirmed pacifists.

There are strict rules of dress for Sapeurs: three colors are the maximum for an outfit and the status of style is increased by accessories, such as cigars, pipes, ties, glasses, and walking sticks. Over the course of several years, Italian photographer Daniele Tamagni documented the colorful dandies of Bacongo, a district of Brazzaville in the Congo, which is considered the birthplace of SAPE, the religion of style.

In 2009, Tamagni’s photographs were compiled into the compact monograph Gentlemen of Bacongo , published by Trolley Books, and this year he was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for Fashion. Recently, Tamagni started showing his prints, which are on view through August 20 in the galleries of the Prince Claus Fund, an organization promoting intercultural exchange, in Amsterdam. Click through below to view a gallery of images.

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni, Gentlemen of Bacongo, published by Trolley Books, 2009. Courtesy Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam. © Daniele Tamagni