Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lifestyle | Masappe

Just how this word found its way into the already rich Luganda slang vocabulary remains anybody’s guess. But with the proliferation of Congolese in this dusty city of ours, one probably needs to look no further.

Deriving its origins from the French abbreviation SAPE – Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (literally: Society of fun-lovers (Ambiance-Makers) and Elegant People), it has come to be associated with anything showbiz, or simply anything that reveals one’s snobbish side. 

Many colonial decades ago in what we know today as Congo Brazzaville and DRC, privileged young men found employment in homes of colonial chiefs as house boys, valets and butlers, and were awed by their masters’ attire and way of life.

The impression was so lasting that some would end up opting to starve and be paid in clothing instead, just so they could acquire the swag that came with looking cool.

Catching the bug next was a good chunk of the then emerging intellectual elite as office clerks, messengers and young civil servants jumped onto the bandwagon, sacrificing portions of their salaries to own souvenirs of expensive clothing.

Today, the most conspicuous Sapeurs we know are Congolese artistes, many of whose dressing styles have gone on to trigger a wave of cultural influence across the continent. The spelling and usage has since evolved to read what we now know as "masappe/amasappe".

So, the next time someone says "Olina amasappe", just know you’ve have been branded a poser.

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