I went to Kinshasa in 2016 after having seen a photo by Johnny Haglund (from Norway) of ‘Les Sapeurs’ in the 2015 ‘Travel Photographer of The Year’ competition. A ‘Sapeur’ is a person who typically lives in the slum but likes to dress up in fancy second hand western designer clothes – and show this of in public. I wanted to photograph them but had no idea how to find them. Les Sapeurs have been very rarely documented by western media so not much info was available.
I spent 4 days zig-zagging through Kinshasas (very dense) traffic looking for them and asking people for advice. I finally managed to arrange a private 50 USD photo-shoot with 3 ‘hired’ Sapeurs. I arranged a private taxi for us to go to 3 selected Kinshasa locations and we ended up in the cemetery in the Gombé district. Here lies the grave of the founder of the Sapeur movement and his followers are known to dance on his grave each year on the day of his death. Unfortunately the cemetery was fenced of though and the gate was locked…
Luckily we chose to wait around a little and by chance we met a television lady with heavy pink lipstick who suddenly turned up and told us she was about to film a group of Sapeurs inside the graveyard. She kindly invited us in. After the Sapeur interview quite a few Sapeurs joined the three I had hired – they all went to the founder’s grave – and they all started dancing. I started snapping away – and I could not believe my luck..
Selected photos from my February 2016 trip to 9 countires in Central Africa: