I only recently discovered the work of UK based artist Camilla Perkins and thanks to her vivid depiction of sapeurs from Africa’s Republic of Congo, I’ve fallen down a wonderful rabbit hole, learning about a most fascinating sartorial subculture. You see, sapeurs are members of the Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes, also known as the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People, and can be traced back to the colonial period in Brazzaville and Kinshasa when house slaves were given clothing by their French and Belgium masters, instead of money, as compensation for their work. This inspired Congolese colonial workers to combat inequity by not only leveling up to their masters’ aristocratic style, but by adding their own unique, exaggerated flair. Today, being a sapeur is about self expression and being confident in oneself despite one’s impoverished circumstances.
So inspired by the dapperly dressed men of the Congo, Camilla has used bright colors and bold patterns to bring sapeurs to life. Her method involves using black pen or paint onto acetate and then scratching every detail on the surface with a knife. Everything is then scanned into Photoshop and then colors are adjusted. Her range of work also includes portrayals of animals and subjects from other cultures but to be honest, her Sapeurs series is my absolute favorite.
Camilla Perkins work available for purchase here