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This Photographer is Capturing the Femininity of Congo’s La Sape Movement

Fashion is an obvious mode of expression, which at times has been used as a form of protest.  In the early part of the 20th century in the Republic of Congo, an interesting fashion movement called La Sape, evolved in reaction to French colonialism. Sporting exquisite and fanciful tailoring in dandyish fashion, the men of this group have long garnered the spotlight, but the women have largely gone unnoticed, until now. Documenting these women is Congolese photojournalist Victoire Douniama. Of the various projects under Douniama’s belt is her photo journal, Les Saupeuse du Congo. For Douniama, La Sape is more than just a fashion statement. She recognizes the political elements of the visuals. The emergence of female sapeurs is revolutionary and, without a doubt, impressive. As a photojournalist, Douniama centers her project on female sapeurs because there was a gap in representation by other photographers. “I wanted to give the ladies a space to share their experiences and what exactly inspired them to join this movement, and how people within their societal circle responded to this,” she said. “Because at some point, this conservative movement was only reserved for men.”