Maximum Effect (La Sape D'Europe)
In Congolese society, there is great significance attached to being able to create a new life within the context of Europe and the UK. The word 'mokili', Lingala for the 'world' has become synonymous with Europe, and the expression milikiste describes the young Congolese who have made it to Europe. The individuals in these portraits represent a fragment of the broader Congolese diaspora, spread across Europe and the UK.
Over the past year, I have been working on a personal project with a group of Congolese men based in London and Paris. Using designer clothing and fashion as a means of self-expression and empowerment, they identify as a European chapter of the La Sape movement (a dynamic sub-culture emanating from Brazzaville, literally translated as the 'Society of Ambiance makers and Elegant people').For subscribers of the La Sape ideology, clothing provides a vehicle with which to challenge limitations, and celebrate difference. Fashion transcends something purely aesthetic; style underpins a lifestyle and provides a vehicle for personal creativity. They see fashion as a medium that allows for distinctiveness, and power over how people may perceive them.
Working in close exchange with these men, I hope to portray their efforts to confidently affirm their identity specifically within the context of British and European spaces, as those who have succeeded in the world. Referencing 'street casting' and fashion editorials, these playful images question notions of representation in a world where appearance is all-important.