Pictures of Les Sapeurs, brightly and dapperly dressed men from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo, are an online staple at this point. Solange even featured a group of these sharp looking men in her 2012 music video for “Losing You,” shot in Cape Town, South Africa.
The distinctive sapeur style has inspired black men and women across the diaspora, and a growing movement of lady dandies, or sapeuses, are helping to diversify sapeur style.
“Les Sapeuses’: The Lady Dandies of the DRC,” an upcoming exhibition, features images of sapeuses, shot by Kinshasa-based photographer Junior D Kannah. The show also features statements from the lady dandies themselves, as they talk about navigating the male-dominated sapeur spaces and battling assumptions about their sexuality.
Kannah first spotted the lady dandies while he was photographing an annual gathering of sapeurs. The women draw inspiration from men’s style and incorporate menswear pieces into their ensembles, while highlighting their personalities and interests in each look.
“Les Sapeuses’: The Lady Dandies of the DRC” opens at London’s Brunei Gallery on October 13. An upcoming book, titled “Lady Dandies of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” will be released in 2018.