Gentlemen of Bacongo

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Gentlemen of BacongoI keep talking about visiting Congo and keep bumping into people with a Congo connection. I nominated the Zaire version (there are two Congo’s ‘Republic’ and ‘Democratic Republic,’ the Zaire one) as the place I really need to go to on the Jennifer Byrne book programme on Australia’s ABC-TV recently. I was on with William Dalrymple, Claire Scobie and Cate Kennedy talking On the Road.

Then I spoke at Bournemouth University in England and one of the students I met afterwards was from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the big Congo). Finally at the Australian Festival of Travel Writing back in Melbourne a week ago I met author Alain Mabanckou, who is from Brazzaville in the other Congo (the Republic one). He’s Professor of Francophone Studies & Creative Writing at UCLA in Los Angeles and I’ve got one of his books, Broken Glass, on my bedside table.

So we talked about Gentlemen of Bacongo, Daniele Tamagni’s wonderful photographic book about the Sapeurs, the followers of Sape in the Bacongo district of Brazzaville, the capital of Congo (Republic of). ‘The white man may have invented clothes but we turned it into an art’ reads a quote on the cover. The guy in his pink suit on the cover says it all, these guys have style!