photography -Videos - Performance

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VANITAS project.

Yves Sambu’s « Vanitas » project (2010-17) is a series comprising of photographs and videos that takes as its subject « La Sape » and Congolese « sapeurs » (dandies). Sambu’s portrait-subjects are depicted in cemeteries, bars, streets, and in private shops and work-places.

Since 2010 Yves Sambu has been mainly involved in observing and documenting two social arenas : places for burial and the sartorial culture of the practitioners of « La Sape» In «Vanitas » these two lines of inquiry are allowed to converge and this without knowing the object of an initial staging on the part of photographer.

Yves Sambu was inspired by an annual commemoration which takes place every February 10th when the Sapeurs gather at the Gombe Cemetery in Kinshasa to commemorate the date of death of Adrien Mombele, known as Strevos Niarkos, the Pope of the SAPE . The photographs taken during that pilgrimage offer the spectators great images of rare intensity .

The Sapeurs who exhibit themselves in public want to be identified and wish to distinguish themselves with luxurious and well known clothing brands. Those clothes are sometimes authentic pieces, sometimes copies. In their eyes, « La Sape » enjoys the status of a « religion », known as « Kitendi », which centers on respect for oneself, the body, the importance of purity, beauty and harmony. « Kitendi » is a real fight against daily immiseration to which the Sapeurs face everyday. Thus far « La Sape » is a form of non-violent resistance. The space of the cemetary is the site that emphasizes not only the religious element, but also a symbol of provocation.

The Sapeurs, not only stand out from the urban landscape against a backdrop of a decadent environment, they also seem to defy evanescence, that is to say, appearance and existence.




SISI MANTO the Spiritual

Dandy Artist, Fashion performer

VSISI MANTO, otherwise called "the spiritual", he is a typical Congolese dandy, is a fashion performer.

The Spiritual is also the creator of the prayer for Congolese dandy movement of kinshasa

Vanitas Video, 2017

"Fear is only an illusion".

SISI MANTO, otherwise called "the spiritual", he's a typical dandy, is a fashion performer artist; has made clothes a medium for artistic expression.

As a performer, he spiritually sublimates the live by garments; because, according to him, clothing is a sacred element inspired by God through men to hide her intimacy.
According to him; not only is clothing the symbol of vanity, but it is spiritually bewitching, it must be treated with dignity, because clothing is sacred.

In this Vanitas video, Sisi Manto is locked in a coffin of death for almost an hour of time, which he has the pain to breathe.
For him, this coffin is a transitional mobile, which allows him to travel beyond human reality. That is to say, to achieve this performance, he is motivated to face the haunting of his fear, including the cries of self-motivation made by these friends Sapeurs (Dandies friends): "fear is only an illusion".

Politically; this performance was exhibited in the street of Kinshasa with this slogan of self-motivation: "Fear is only an illusion"; it is a way for them, as citizens, to express to politics their rights to live. he prefers to be buried alive than to resist to live with a policy of humiliation where the respect of human rights does not exist, Because life is only vanity.

the Interviews

Vanitas Exhibition 2017


ENIGMA project. Work in progress


Insula Trans-verso 2016


The first step : Insula Trans - verso under the theme "Living Tradition".

The 33rd edition of belluard Bollwerk International Festival in Frieburg (Switzerland), under the theme " Living Tradition ", Enigma «Insula trans-verso» raises a living traditions

Insula trans-verso, which we shall translate as: “the other side of the island” or “the other side of loneliness”, i.e. and in the other terms, a journey to the quest of self. As such, “Insula trans-verso” expresses the odyssey of people in quest of his lost identity: the tradition, through the dance, customary and religious rituals, and the craft, which are the many landmarks, which can help to find an identity.

We worked with the Bakoko (a socio-cultural, Kongo tribal and spiritual movement), bringing together designer craftsmen, claims their tribal authenticity through craftsmanship.

On the Spiritual level, this project had to be directed towards oneself in fashioning the great mosaic tunic using “mayaka” on which appears the face of Simon Kimbagu the prophet, the figure head of the continuation of the Bantu tradition and spirituality. Mayaka (specific pearl of Kongo princely dressing) is the principal material for Bantu creation (design). These seeds are equally arranged with a very specific technique of weaving and serve as basic material for artistic expression. By the way, we shall notice the biodegradable and ecological aspect of this technique .

The « Mayaka » are the seeds of a wild plant found in the Central Africa savannas and which, from time immemorial, constitute an element of design in the Bantu royal dress code. This tradition, which is still alive, helps for the identification of traditional authority. Indeed, it is through the “mayaka” that the symbolic identification of all the representatives of the customary law is being done in Congo; though the modernity has transformed it or modified some of its uses.

So, the tradition demands that the “mayaka” should be found in the dress of customary representatives even when they wear western lounge suit.


© 2018 yves Sambu