For the La Sape, part of the London based Congolese community; fashion transcends being something purely aesthetic.
Style is a way to express a lifestyle and identify with their community. My subjects openly advertise a luxurious and cosmopolitan existence with the latest range of designer pieces, labels often left on so onlookers can see both the items authenticity and price.
While the Sapeurs of the Congo are known for their iconic coloured suits, the aesthetic of the La Sape is very reflective of the urban city centers in which they live and travel. I am told that the concept originated in Paris, amongst the Congolese community there but there is now a large movement in both Belgium and London. The subjects I worked with are extremely proud and always emphasise the importance of owning and projecting their own identity and agency to the world through their appearance.
I feel that working with these subjects to depict their positive sense of self is extremely important as it helps to challenge traditional binaries and stereotypes of African men. My subjects retain a strong sense of masculinity, while also embracing flamboyant clothes and a love for fashion and extravagance not typically associated with men in a heteronormative patriarchal society. Their presence challenges binaries of race, space and gender deconstructing what it might mean to be African. My subjects use fashion to identify and distinguish themselves from others while purposefully hinting at a particular lifestyle and success.
I was born and grew up in Cape Town South Africa in the 1990’s, moving to London at the beginning of 2014 after having completed my studies. I am currently based in between London and South Africa, and continue to make work in both places.
I see my upbringing and experience in post-apartheid South Africa as a catalyst for the character and direction of my photographic work.
The politics of discrimination and inequality associated with race, gender and power in society is a constant theme throughout my work.