Les Sapeurs de Brazzaville: Made Of More is the latest venture into global style by Guinness.
It was something of a surprise to come across this latest Guinness advert which shines a light on Les Sapeurs – the Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo. These Gentlemen of Bacongo are mostly blue-collar workers who dedicate their leisure time to displaying an effortless savoir faire.
The Republic of Congo has experience civil wars and militia conflicts. After three coup-ridden but relatively peaceful decades of independence, the former French colony experienced the first of two destructive bouts of fighting when disputed parliamentary elections in 1993 led to ethnically-based fighting between pro-government forces and the opposition. A ceasefire and the inclusion of some opposition members in the government helped to restore peace. According the this short film, a relative peace has settled on Brazzaville and given these brethren renewed optimism and confidence. However, for some strange reason this ad was filmed in South Africa. That said, based on previous film footage of Le SAPE, the vignettes in the short documentary remain essentially true to life.
Along with an ice cold glass or bottle of Guiness we get to savour the simple philosophy of the Sapeurs who defy circumstances, collect an array of expensive shoes and keep their tailors busy in order to live with “joie de vivre”. There are definitely touching moments in the documentary … check the one where the guy describes burying all his treasured sartorial possessions during an outbreak of war only to return to find them rotted away… “it is like a cemetery, like someone is buried there.” I’m also loving the policeman who was inspired by Prince Charles!
Interestingly, we get a strong bluesy soundtrack which works well with the ad but for the sake if “authenticite” I’ve added a couple of more appropriate Congolese cuts here from Papa Wemba, Evoloko Jocker and Kofi Olomide.
Solange Knowles – Beyonce’s sister – made it to the Congo-Brazzaville before Guinness.