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Gentlemen of Bacongo [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Daniele Tamagni , Paul Smith , Paul Goodwin
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Oct 2009
Daniele Tamagni's wonderful pictorial essay brilliantly manages to capture the ebullience of sapeur culture at its source in Bacongo, a sprawling suburb of Brazzaville in The Congo. Le Sape (The Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes), is one of the world's most exclusive clubs. It has recently become an international phenomenon with branches in places like Brazzaville, Kinshasa, Paris, Brussels and parts of South London. The sapeur style and relationship to clothes is unique - a throwback to a lost world of pre-colonial elegance and decadence and at the same time it is futuristic. Members have their own code of honour, codes of professional conduct and strict notions of morality.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Trolley; First edition edition (5 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190456383X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904563839
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 15.9 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 492,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Daniele Tamagni is an Italian art historian and freelance photographer. Introduction by Paul Goodwin, Cross Cultural Curator of the Tate Gallery; preface by Paul Smith, designer.

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Customer Reviews

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3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SUPA SAPA!!! 30 Jun 2010
By Sara B.
This colourful book takes you to the streets of Bacongo, a district area in Brazzaville where the elegant sapeurs show off their suits with style and a touch of extravagance. They belong to a very important club: The Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (The society for the advancement of people of elegance) which now has among its adepts also a few women.

This movement started when in the 70's the first Congolese people, who had migrated to Europe, came back to Congo with designer clothes. Many were fascinated with French fashion and started to emulate the French style, reinterpreting it according to their particular taste... The cult of elegance which has emerged from it appears in all his glory in the pages of this photographic book.

The sapeurs parade on the animated catwalks of the streets of Bacongo wearing kilts or pinstripe suits. They pose with unlighted cigars while children stare at them... with little markets and hanging clothes in the background. The contrast between the setting and the clothes of the sapeurs portrayed on this book will impress you for sure. What I loved most is how Davide Tamagni managed to capture this contrast without irony, but providing us a glimpse of the lives of the serious and proud sapeurs of Bacongo... they might appear frivolous like fashion can be, inspiring like art definitely is, funny like caricatures are but certanly worth to be admired in their multi-coloured outfits.

If you are interested in knowing more, I highly recommend also the chapter dedicated to "les sapeurs" on Michela Wrong's "In The Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book 20 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Incredible photographs of an absolutely fascinating world. Well worth buying for anyone who has an interest for fashion, tailoring or photography.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Style magazine more than great photography 17 Mar 2013
By Ariadna
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's a shame, I expected it to be better. It has a great subject matter but instead of understanding the characters the author decides to do what style magazines do, talk only about their clothes and aesthetics. Some photos are good, but I haven't been blown away.

Also I was very unhappy with the seller. I contacted them to see if I could change it, as it was a present, but they didn't even bother to answer my query.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing! 7 Nov 2009
By Ebonga Tembe - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is not what I expected. It's smaller than I had previously though. It's even smaller than most regular books. The pictures are nice but given the size of the book its does not do justice to some of the pictures. Also the text is just not commensurate with the pictures. There is no in-depth explanation of some of the pictures, no real analyses, no effort to comprehend this sub-cultures that others have explained so well. If you're buying this for the pictures, then go for it knowing that the text will not help you understand and contextualize the pictures.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best fashion books of all time! 14 July 2011
By Marsha Music - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have purchased this book 3 times! Once for myself and then twice as gifts. Btw, I am an African-American woman, a fashionista from way back, and have been reading and buying fashion books for decades.

I was astonished when I first picked up this book, for the cover alone is enough to grab the eye and beckon at the treasures of Black style held within. Page after page of not only extraordinary haberdashery but Black MEN at their sartorial finest - refreshing and even comforting, in an era of sagging pants and t-shirts as style.

The book certainly affirms that the roots of Black Style in the African Diaspora lie in Africa, and is a reminder of the sartorial splendor of the African American men of my "old-school" generation. Although the book describes the origin of the incredible look of the Sape as originating in their contact with European fashion, make no mistake - this book is about style as it emanates from Africa itself.

Contrary to reviewers who believe that the book is physically too small, this book made me feel as if I had a treasure in hand, a small, secret tome for the cognoscenti of style. Although I'd love to see, one day, a "cocktail table" sized book on the Sape, this small size made me feel as if even *I* was a part of this exclusive, arcane society of serious dressers. This is an exquisite book, beautifully photographed yet unflinching in depicting the finery of these men (and even a few women) in the midst of urban squalor - not unlike the men in the 'hood, here in the US. I was reminded of the slick, sharp, studied dressing in my hometown Detroit, a generation ago, where sharp-suited men reigned in on the corners of 12th Street - down the street from Motown. Even today, some of the best dressed men in the world are in churches and offices of Detroit.

I hope that the book is reprinted, for I gave away the one copy that I had purchased for myself, to someone who literally begged it away from me. Next time, I will not let it go. It is a wonderful peek into a stunning slice of African life - that resonates all the way to African-America, and to fashionistos worldwide. It is a photographic textbook for sartorialists, an visual ode to the grace and beauty of Grown Black Men.

(Read more of me:[...])
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The importance of being elegant 11 April 2010
By Bernard M. Patten - Published on
The suits are great - great fits, great colors, and great new ideas in fashion for men and the gods know we men need some great new ideas because the current fashion scene for us is blah. The philosophy is there, a religion of style called SAPE (Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnnes Elegantes), and well stated. There is even the 10 commandments of the SAPE, including the last commandments which are yet to be written. In other words, an evolving and fluid moral philosophy. It helps if you read French because some of the most enlightening elements are in that language. What I liked best is seeing nice people dressed nicely and having fun despite an environment of abject poverty. The photos show the real life of these people, their real homes, the real streets they walk on. What's wrong with that? And if you look carefully, actually study the photographs, there are always hints in the backgrounds about their secret lives. As for me, give me some suits like those on display. I have already asked my tailor if he can make two for me - the one on the cover and the one in the center with the red and white stripes. No answer yet. My tailor is studying the book and working on the project. Complaints: No page numbers; no index so the book is not perfect, but what human thing is? Perfect is the enemy of good-enough and this book is good enough by far. It is a unique work and approaches the redemptive quality of art.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting social revelations 15 Jan 2014
By Obi Tabansi Onyeaso - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have had this book for over 2 years now, and I still get favorable comments when friends glance through it in my house.

A lot of people do not quite understand that the cult of sape is really about an elegant rebellion against the oppression of drabness, uniformity, and herd mentality that characterized many African countries in the post-Independence period. To see this as simply a troop of misguided dandies spending money on garments they can ill afford is to miss the point.

Sape is not just about dress. It is about assertion of character. Tamagni, the author, has captured this cultural resistance in a brilliant edition. I hope to see an expanded second edition that extends the coverage to similar trends in Congo Kin, Cote dÍvoire, and other francophone countries.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not "disappointing" at all ... the negative review feels rather unfair 27 Dec 2009
By desmond - Published on
As another reviewer has pointed out, the person who said the book does not "contextualize" the pictures must have missed the [drum roll] introductions, which give _extensive_ background.

(I found this book from a mention on the Bright Lights LA modeling website.)
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