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Contesting Clothes in Colonial Brazzaville1

  • Phyllis M. Martin (a1)

The significance of dress in mediating social relations was deeply rooted in the Central African experience. In pre-colonial times, clothing, jewellery and insignia conveyed identity, status, values and a sense of occasion. Those with access to European trade cloth and second-hand clothes integrated them into their dress. Central Africans had a strong sense of the “politics of costume” long before new sources and ideas of clothing arrived with colonialism.

Brazzaville, the capital of French Equatorial Africa, then became the scene of opportunity, experimentation and choice. Foreign workers from West Africa, the French Antilles and the Central African coastal regions pioneered new styles which were quickly appropriated and adapted by other townspeople. Europeans, in their attire, also seemed to confirm the importance of dress and were a model for those who considered themselves évolués. In handing out clothing, European employers and missionaries had their own agenda, which was rejected by many townspeople as an autonomous fashion sense developed in Bacongo and Poto-Poto, the African districts of Brazzaville. With an entrenched monetary economy, cloth and clothing became widely available to all with cash. Styles, costs and values became issues of contention. Clothing not only symbolized change but became a vehicle for change.

In the late colonial period, the sources allow a deeper understanding of the relationship of dress to controversial social issues. Clothing became an arena for contesting and asserting class, gender and generational roles.

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2 Brunschwig, Henri, Brazza explorateur: les traités Makoko, 1880–1882 (Paris, 1972), 52.

3 Ibid. 53. On the regalia of the Tio ruler and chiefs, see Sautter, Gilles, ‘Le plateau Congolais de Mbé’, Call. É. Afr., 1 (1960), 35–7; andVansina, Jan, The Tio Kingdom of the Middle Congo, 1880–1892 (London, 1973), 386–8.

4 Vansina, Jan, Paths in the Rainforests (Madison, 1990), 100.

5 Vansina, , Tio Kingdom, 159, 307.

6 See, for example, Froment, E., ‘Un voyage dans l'Oubangui’, Bulletin de la Société de Géographie de Lille, xi (1889), 196, 199; and Dybowski, Jean, La route du Tchad: du Loango au Chari (Paris, 1893), 152–5. See also Vassal, Gabrielle M., Life in French Congo (London, 1925), 115–24; Gide, André, Travels in the Congo (Paris, 1927; Berkeley and Los Angeles, reprint 1962), 51–2; Briault, Maurice, Dans le fôret du Gabon (Paris, 1930), 153–6; Bafoutela, Raymond, ‘Étude morphologique et vestimentaire sur le groupe Bondjo de la Likouala’, Cahiers Congolais d'Anthropologic et d'Histoire (hereafter CCAH), IV (1979), 2138.

7 Ravenstein, E. G. (ed. ), The Strange Adventures of Andrew Battell in Angola and Adjoining Regions (London, 1901), 69; Naber, S. P. (ed. ), Sam Brun's Schiffarten (1624) (The Hague, 1913), 910; Dapper, Olfert, Naukeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaensche Gewesten (2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1676), 149–51, 157–8. For similar descriptions of the dress at the Kongo court, see Bal, Willy (ed. ), Description du royaume de Congo et des contrees environnantes, par Filippo Pigafetta et Duarte Lopes (1591) (Louvain, 1963), 36–7; and Obenga, Théophile, ‘Habillement, cosmetique et parure au royaume de Kongo’, CCAH, iv (1979), 2138.

8 For a fuller discussion of this point, see Martin, Phyllis M., ‘Power, cloth and currency on the Loango coast’, African Economic History, xv (1986), 112.

9 Owen, W. F. W., Narrative of a Voyage to Explore the Shores of Africa, Arabia and Madagascar (New York, 1833), 173.

10 Vansina, , Tio Kingdom, 274; Harms, Robert W., River of Wealth, River of Sorrow: The Central Zaire Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade, 1500–1891 (New Haven, 1981), 47, 63–4, 89. Raphia cloth did not disappear in the twentieth century, however, since it remained in use for work clothes and for special occasions such as initiation ceremonies. For a recent revival in its use, see, Jean-Michel Delabeau and Ngoulou, Sylvain, ‘Le tissage du raphia en pays Kukua: de l'industrie à l'art’, CCAH, X (1985), 4551.

11 Roach, Mary Ellen and Eicher, Joanne Bubolz, ‘The language of personal adornment’, in Cordwell, Justine M. and Schwarz, Ronald A. (eds. ), The Fabrics of Culture: The Anthropology of Clothing and Adornment (The Hague, 1979), 910.

12 Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine, Brazza et la prise de possession du Congo (Paris, 1969), 401–2.

13 Sketches of these tusks can be found in Pechuël-Loesche, E., Volkskunde von Loango (Stuttgart, 1907), 76–7; also see photograph in Vansina, Jan, Art History in Africa (New York, 1984), 131. Also see Mount, Sigrid Docken, ‘African art at the Cincinnati Art Museum’, African Arts, xiii (08, 1980), 40–6, 88.

14 I have come across such sketches and photographs in travellers’ accounts, contemporary journals and archival collections of postcards and photographs.

15 Gibson, Gordon D. and McGurk, Cecilia R., ‘High-status caps of the Kongo and Mbundu peoples’, Textile Museum Journal, iv (1977), 73; Vansina, , Tio Kingdom, 154, 453; Hilton, Anne, The Kingdom of Kongo (Oxford, 1985), 37, 96, 118, 138, 205, 224.

16 Picton, J. and Mack, J., African Textiles: Looms, Weaving and Design (London, 1979), 175.

17 The point is developed further in the next section for the Brazzaville situation, but it has also been documented for other areas. See, for example, Beidelman, T. O., Colonial Evangelism: A Socio-Historical Study of an East African Mission at the Grassroots (Bloomington, 1982), and Jean, and Comaroff, John, Of Revelation and Revolution: Christianity, Colonialism and Consciousness in South Africa (Chicago, 1991). For similar encounters elsewhere, see Thomas, Nicholas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge MA, 1991).

18 Mayer, Philip, Townsmen or Tribesmen: Conservation and the Process of Urbanization in a South African City (Cape Town, 1951), 14, quoted in Coplan, David, In Township Tonight! South Africa's Black City Music and Theatre (London, 1987), 232; and Waterman, Christopher Alan, Juju: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music (Chicago, 1990), 67.

10 Nketia, J. H., ‘The gramophone and contemporary African music in the Gold Coast’, Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Conference of the West African Institute of Economic and Social Research (Ibadan, 1955), 189200.

20 Roberts, Andrew, ‘African cross currents’, in Roberts, Andrew (ed. ), Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. 7: 1905–1960 (Cambridge, 1986), 224–31.

21 Norden, Hermann, Auf neuen Pfaden in Kongo: quer durch das dunkelste Afrika (Leipzig, 1926), 262; Chalux, , Un an au Congo Beige (Brussels, 1925), 157–8.

22 Administrator Bonchamps, ‘Rapport sur la région de Brazzaville’, Brazzaville, 1 May 1900. I am grateful to Roger Frey for making his copy of this report available to me. Also Girard, L., ‘Brazzaville’, Bulletin du Comité de I'Afrique Francaise: Renseignements Coloniaux [hereafter BCAF] (March 1916), 38.

23 d'Uzès, Duchesse, Le voyage de mon fils au Congo (Paris, 1894), 15.

24 Reported in Dybowski, Jean, Le Congo méconnu (Paris, 1912), 161; Castellani, Charles, Vers le Nil français avec la mission Marchand (Paris, 1898), 33; also, Acadeémie des Sciences d'Outre-Mer (ASOM), Paris, Fonds Bruel, B-213–50, photograph, ‘Gabonnaises à Libreville, 1908’.

25 Brunache, Paul, Le centre de I'Afrique: autour du Tchad (Paris, 1894), 13; ASOM, Fonds Bruel, B-5–40, photograph, ‘Congo-Brazzaville-Boy Loango, 1907’.

26 ‘Communauté du Sacre-Coeur de Brazzaville’, Bulletin de la Congrégation des Pères du Saint-Esprit (BCPSE), xxi (19011902), 668.

27 Augouard, P., 44 Années au Congo (Evreux, 1934), 83, 191; Remy, J., ‘Une procession à Brazzaville’, Annates Apostoliques (09. 1912), 229; letter from Sam Hede, Brazzaville, 15 Dec. 1913, published in Missionsförbundet (1914), 86–7; Challaye, Félicien, Le Congo Français: la question internationale du Congo (Paris, 1909), 30; interview with Bernard Mambeke-Boucher, 20 Nov. 1986.

28 Bouteillier, Gaston, Douze mois sous l'quateur (Toulouse, 1903), 73–4.

29 Interview with Mère Emilie, 12 June 1989; interview with M. Moustapha, 15 June 1989; interview with Bernard Mambeke-Boucher, 20 Nov. 1986; Castellani, Charles, Lesfemmes au Congo (Paris, 1898), 3541, 111–12, 120; Bonnefont, J., ‘Brazzaville: la ville et la mission’, Annates Apostoliques (07-08. 1926), 110; Briault, Maurice, ‘La mode chez les noirs’, Annates des Pères du Saint-Esprit (04 1929), 126.

30 Interview with Sylvain Bemba, 2 Jan. 1987; interview with Mambeke-Boucher, 1 Dec. 1986. Also see Gandoulou, Justin-Daniel, Dandies à Bacongo: le culte de l'élégance dans la société congolaise contemporaine (Paris, 1989), 6.

31 N'Zala-Backa, Placide, Le tipoye d’oré (Brazzaville, 1968), 93; Svenska Missionsför-bundet (SMF), Stockholm, F1 Brazzaville Mission Journal, 4 April 1915; interview with Mambeke-Boucher, 20 Nov. 1986; interview with Roger Frey, 9 July 1987.

32 Interview with Papa Albert, 17 June 1989; interview with Mambeke-Boucher, 20 Nov. 1986; Hornet, Marcel, Congo: terre de souffranees (Paris, 1934), 218; Sabatier, Peggy, ‘Did Africans really learn to be French? The francophone élite of the École William Ponty’, in Johnson, G. Wesley (ed. ), Double Impact: France and Africa in the Age of Imperialism (Westport, 1985), 181–2.

33 Puytorac, Jean de, Makambo: une vie au Congo (Brazzaville-M’ Bondo) (Cadeilhan, 1992), 46; Vassal, Gabrielle, Life in French Congo (London, 1925), 27, 115; Gandoulou, , Dandies à Bacongo, 11.

34 Rouget, Ferdinand, L'Afrique Équatoriale illustrée (Paris, 1913), 70, 73, 77.

35 For example, see Maigret, Julien, ‘Nos grandes cités coloniales: Brazzaville’, he Monde Colonial Illustré, xxxii (04 1926), 83; Puytorac, , Makambo, 158–62; Sauvage, Marcel, Sous le feu de I'équateur: les secrets de l'Afrique noire (Paris, 1944), 68–9. Also Martin, Phyllis, ‘Leisure and the making of a ruling class in colonial Brazzaville’, in Galloway, Patricia (ed. ), Proceedings of the Seventeenth Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society (Chicago, 05 1991) (Lanham, 1993), 99114.

36 Callan, Hilary, ‘Introduction’, in Callan, Hilary and Ardener, Shirley (eds. ), The Incorporated Wife (London, 1984), 15.

37 Vassal, Life in French Congo, 27–9.

38 Andrée Blouin in collaboration with MacKellar, Jean, My Country Africa: Autobiography of the Black Pasionaria (New York, 1983), 62; Vacquier, Raymond, Au temps des factories (1900–1950) (Paris, 1986), 101.

39 Carrie, Monseigneur, Coutumier de l'oeuvre des enfants dans le vicariat apostolique du Congo Français (Loango, 1890), 43–4.

40 Andersson, Ephraim, Churches at the Grass Roots: A Study in Congo-Brazzaville (London, 1968), 189.

41 Archives Nationales du Congo, Brazzaville (ANB), GG481, reports by the Principal of the Urban School to the Mayor of Brazzaville, 31 Dec. 1913, 31 March and 25 June 1914.

42 Archives Outre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence (AOM), Governor of Moyen Congo to Governor-General, 17 July 1948.

43 Interview with Clement Massengo, 24 Nov. 1986; interview with MambekeBoucher, 20 Nov. 1986; ANB, IGE 144(1), Report from the Department of Youth, Sport and School Hygiene, 1952–3.

44 Comaroff, and Comaroff, , Of Revelation and Revolution, 12.

45 Carrie, , Coutumier, 43–41; and Organisation de la Mission du Congo Français (Loango, 1898), n. p.; Briault, , ‘La mode chez les noirs’, 95–6.

46 Quoted in Marthey, J., ‘L'oeuvre missionaire pour la population feminine au Congo’, Revue d'Histoire des Colonies, xliv (1957), 81. Emphasis in the original.

47 Carrie, , Coutumier, 17, 37, and Oeuvres des Soeurs de Saint Joseph de Cluny dans la mission du Congo Français (Loango, 1897), 6.

48 Briault, Maurice, ‘Le cinquantenaire de la mission du Congo Français: Brazzaville, 1888–1938’, Revue d'Histoire des Missions, xv (1938), 509. Descriptions of these occasions are to be found in the reports from Brazzaville that appeared in the BCPSE and in the Annates Apostoliques. Although many Frenchmen were anti-clerical, some who describe Monseigneur Augouard more sympathetically confirm accounts of these grand occasions. The influence of the Catholic church, especially faced with the weakness of the state is an important theme in the history of Brazzaville.

49 Interview with Mambeke-Boucher, 20 Nov. 1986; Vassal, , Life in French Congo, 72; Gabrielle, and Vassal, Joseph, François, beiges et portugais en Afrique Éuatoriale: PointeNoire, Matadi, Lobito (Paris, 1931), 153.

50 Lastours, Docteur Fougerat de David de, ‘Hygiène, nudité, soleil aux colonies’, communication to the Société de Médicine et d'Hygiène Tropicale (Paris, 1927); Frey, Roger, ‘Soleil et colonies’, L'Étoile de l'AEF, 6 Aug. 1938.

51 Weinstein, Brian, Éoué (New York, 1972), 23; Ulrich, Sophie, he Gouverneur Général Félix Ébone' (Paris, 1950), 23–4.

55 For more details on this incident, see Martin, Phyllis M., ‘Colonialism, youth and football in French Equatorial Africa’, International Journal of the History of Sport, viii (1991), 5671.

53 Interview with Mere Emilie, 13 June 1989; interview with M. Moustapha, 15 June 1989; Jaffre, R. P., ‘De Plougastch au Congo’, Annates Apostoliques, xxiii (1930), 2; Report from the Community at Brazzaville, , Annates de la Congregation des Soeurs de Saint Joseph de Cluny, lxix (1938), 71; Archives des Peres du Saint-Esprit, Chevilly (APSE), Photograph Collection.

54 Douglas, Mary and Isherwood, Baron, The World of Goods: Towards an Anthropology of Consumption (New York, 1979), 5, 10, 59. Other useful discussions of culture and consumerism can be found in Perkins, Elizabeth A., ‘The consumer frontier: household consumption in early Kentucky’, Journal of American History, lxxviii (1991), 486510; Culture and History, vii (1990), special issue on consumerism; and McCracken, Grant, Culture and Consumption: New Approaches to the Symbolic Character of Consumer Goods and Activities (Bloomington, 1988).

55 Data from the first reliable census, 1950–1, were published by Marcel Soret; however, other accounts confirm the statement from an earlier period. See Soret, Marcel, Demographie et problèmes urbains en A. E. F.: Poto-Poto, Bacongo, Dolisie (Montpellier, 1954). 910, 3942.

56 ‘Communaute du Sacré-Coeur, à Brazzaville’, BCPSE, xxvii (19101913), 55; Bonnefont, , ‘Brazzaville: la ville et la mission’, 108–9; Briault, , ‘La mode’, 124–6.

57 Vassal, , Français, beiges et portugais, 153.

58 AOM, 4(2)D55, Report of Commune of Brazzaville, 3rd trimester 1932; 5D65, Annual Report of Moyen Congo, 1932.

59 Balandier, Georges, ‘Évolution de la société et de l'omme’, in Guernier, Eugène (ed. ), Afrique Equatoriale Française (Paris, 1950), 126.

60 Soret, , Démographie et problèmes urbains en A. E. F., 91.

61 Balandier, Georges, Sociologie des Brazzavilles noires (Paris, 1955), 92.

62 Althabe, G., Éude du chômage à Brazzaville en 1957-étude psychologique (Paris, 1963), 10, 12; Devauges, R., Étude du chômage à Brazzaville en 1957-étude sociologique (Paris, 1963), 83.

63 Coquery-Vidrovitch, , Brazza et la prise de possession du Congo, 209–10;Rabut, Élisabeth, Brazza Commissaire General: le Congo Français, 1886–1887 (Paris, 1989), 364–6.

64 Puytorac, , Makambo, 4750, 56; see, Vacquier, Au temps des factories, for a comprehensive account of the stock carried by stores of the Compagnie Francaise d'Afrique Occidentale, which had an outlet in Brazzaville.

65 Frey, Roger, ‘Brazzaville, capitale de l'Afrique Équatoriale’, Encyclopédie mensuelle d'outre-mer, xlvii–xlix (08. -09. 1954), 37.

66 AOM, 4(2)D1 Brazzaville Administrator to Commissioner-General of French Congo in Libreville, 13 July 1901.

67 Girard, , ‘Brazzaville’, 30–3.

68 ‘Les vieux Brazzavillois: Kitoko retour’, L'Étoile de l’ AEF, 9 Nov. 1930; ‘La colonie portugaise’, Perspectives d'outre-mer, xviii (1956), 61–2.

69 Blouin, , My Country Africa, 66.

70 Courrier d'Afrique, 8 Nov. 1951; ‘L'expansion japonaise en Afrique’, BCAF (1934), 496–7.

71 Puytorac, , Makambo, 62.

72 Interview with Mère Emilie, 12 June 1989; interview with M. Moustapha, 15 June 1989; interview with S. Scholastique, 13 Nov. 1986; Pellerin, Pierre, Une enfance en brousse congolaise (Paris, 1990), 125.

73 Blouin, , My Country Africa, 114–15.

74 Interview with Mambeke-Boucher, 20 Nov. 1986; interview with Maya Ahlden, 7 Nov. 1986; interview with S. Clothilde, 10 Nov. 1986; Sauvage, Marcel, Les secrets de l'rique noire (Paris, 1937), 70–1; Rondet-Saint, M., Sur les routes du Cameroun et de l'A. E. F. (Paris, 1933), 139.

75 AOM, 5D88, Camille Diata to Paul Mayoukou, Brazzaville, 19 March 1930. Bacongo and Poto-Poto were referred to as ‘villages’ in contrast to the European ‘town’. The style ‘Popo’ was most likely influenced by men from Dahomey. By way of assessing the cost of being fashionable, the wage of a writer-interpreter-typist at the government hospital was 12 francs per day (ANB, GG 444[2], Report of the General Hospital, Brazzaville 1930). Camille Diata who was jailed by the French as a supporter of Andre Matswa was 19 at the time that he wrote this letter. See Sinda, Marcel, Le messianisme congolais et ses incidences politiques (Paris, 1972), 254 n. 1. The letter was confiscated with other papers during a police raid and is preserved in the colonial archives. Letter-writing was a popular hobby among literate young men and Diata was no exception.

76 Interview with Antoine Mangoyo, 29 Dec. 1986; interview with Honoré Monabeka, 27 Dec. 1986.

77 Interview with Philippe Mokwami, 10 Jan. 1987; interview with Antoine Mangoyo, 29 Dec. 1987; interview with Louis Lingouala, 22 Dec. 1986; Gandoulou, , Dandies à Bacongo, 30; Bemba, Sylvain, 50 ans de la musique du Congo-Zaire (Paris, 1984), 76, 82–3; Balandier, , ‘Évolution de la société et de l'homme’, 126.

78 Interview with Mère Emilie, 13 June 1989; interview with Sidone Ngole, 12 May 1988; interview with Albertine Mowango, 26 Dec. 1987; Vincent, Jeanne-Françoise, Femmes africaines en tnilieu urbain (Paris, 1966), 201–3. The older perceptions of value in cloth live on in the present when, for example, cloth changes hands at the conclusion of a marriage contract.

78 Interview with M. Moustapha, 15 June 1989; interview with Mère Emilie, 12 June 1989; interview with Anne Ngondjo, 15 June 1989; interview with Sidone Ngole, 12 May 1988.

80 Raoul-Matingou, Emilienne, Activités des femmes en milieu urbain: le cas de Brazzaville (These de 3e Cycle, Université des Sciences et Techniques de Lille, 1982), 238; interview with Augustine Massalo, 23 Dec. 1986; interview with Mère Emilie, 12 June 1989; interview with Sidone Ngole, 12 May 1988; Blouin, , My Country Africa, 90; Audibert, Jacques, Une compagnie commerciale en République Populaire du Congo: le CFAO (Travail d'études et de recherches, Université de Bordeaux III, 1973), 38–9.

81 Blouin, , My Country Africa, 2930; interview with M. Moustapha, 15 June 1989; interview with Mere Emilie, 13 June 1989.

82 Jhimmy, ‘Marie Thérèse’, La voix de son maître (KIP 23).

83 McCracken, , Culture and Consumption, 60–1.

84 Soret, , Démographie et problemes urbaines en A. E. F., 39, 42.

85 M'Bokolo, Elikia, ‘Forces sociales et idéologies dans la décolonisation de l'A. E. F.’, J. Afr. Hist., xxii (1981), 393–9;Devauges, , Éude du chômage àa Brazzaville, 1117.

86 Ayouné, J. -R., ‘Notre but’, L'Éducation de la Jeunesse Africaine, 11 (1942). Ayoune, himself, was an elegant and fastidious dresser.

87 Brazzaville (supplement de la Vie Catholique Illustrée), vii (04 1951).

88 Interview with Mère Emilie, 13 June 1989; interview with Mambeke-Boucher, 1 Dec. 1986; ‘Soirées de Poto-Poto’, France-Éuateur (13 Sept. 1954); Balandier, , Sociologie des Brazzavilles noires, 146–8, and Ambiguous Africa (New York, 1966), 192–3. Some of these women were called by Balandier ‘high-class prostitutes’; however, no systematic study of prostitution in Brazzaville comparable to that of Luise White (The Comforts of Home [Chicago, 1990]) for Nairobi has yet been undertaken. See Phyllis M. Martin, Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (forthcoming).

89 Mosingue, François, ‘Un des grands problémes sociaux de l'Afrique contemporaine: la corruption des moeurs des femmes dites évoluées’, Liaison, Lviii (1957), 30–4; Pouabou, Joseph, ‘L’évolutionde la femme africaine’, Liaison, xv (1951), 1314; Bandila, Jéröme, ‘Le zig-zag de la jeunesse’, Liaison, xxxv (1953), 1819; Kaya, Paul, ‘La fille noire, cette ‘victime”, Tam-Tam, v (1956), 1013; Pika, , ‘Lamode féminine: l'habit fait-il le moine?’ La semaine de l'A. E. F. (31 01. 1953); Boubala, Raphaël, ‘Les jeunes filles et la mode’, Liaison, xx I–xxII (1952), 1112; M'Bombo, Madelaine, ‘La voix d’une femme courageuse’, Liaison, xxxix (1953), 1617.

90 Mosingue, François, ‘Un des grands problèmes’, 33.

91 ‘L'élection de Miss Poto-Poto’, France-Equateur, 4 May 1957; ‘L'élection de la Miss Africaine’, France-Éuateur, 6 05 1957.

92 Kamba, Paul, ‘Djiguida’ (Ngoma 275).

93 In its history from 1950 to 1959, the journal, Liaison, published many articles and letters on these topics.

94 Wipper, Audrey, ‘African women, fashion, and scapegoating’, Can. J. Afr. Studies, vi (1972), 329–49.

95 Gandoulou, Justin-Daniel, Entre Paris et Bacongo (Paris, 1984), and Dandies a Bacongo. See also Friedman, Jonathan, ‘The political economy of elegance: an African cult of beauty’, Culture and History, vii (1990), 101–25; Duteil, Mireille, ‘Congo: travail de “sape”’, Le Monde (13 03 1989); Rouch, Jane, ‘Les dandys de Brazzaville’, Le Matin Weekend (6 04 1984).

96 ‘La sape’ is a French slang word meaning clothing with the added connotation of elegance and high fashion. The ‘sapeurs’ took the word and made it an acronym for their ‘society’.

97 Quoted in Mireille Duteil, ‘Congo: travail de “sape”’. The two books by Gandoulou which are based on interviews with ‘sapeurs’ give a good sense of this ‘way of life and state of mind’.

98 Etho, Jean, ‘L'habit ne fait pas le moine’, Liaison, xxxviii (1953), 26; also see the discussion of Bemba, Sylvain, ‘Face à son destin, la jeunesse du Moyen Congo est-elle prête à assurer la relève?Liaison, lix (1957), 127–14.

99 Bemba, , ‘Face à son destin’, 1315.

100 Gandoulou, , Dandies àa Bacongo, 11.

1 I am grateful for the comments on previous versions of this paper that I have received at several seminars. I would particularly like to acknowledge the comments of Paula Girshick, Joseph Miller and David Robinson. Research for this paper which is part of a book-length study on Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville was funded by Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society and Indiana University.

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