Portrait | Nominee

Kai Löffelbein

Hannover / DE www.kailoeffelbein.com

Pride and Prejudice – Sapeurs of Brazzaville


The subculture of the Congo Sapeurs comes from la SAPE, short Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes. In the 1920s servants were often given clothes second hand so that the european employers would be able to show off their wealth. It is said that the movement began when the first Congolese returned well dressed from Paris. Today’s sapeurs claim to belong to the forth or fifth generation of Congolese dandyism. But beeing SAPE is not about dressing up, its all about pride, movement and acting, dream and drama. Its an intentional representation of artistry and ownership of identity. »Sapeurs would argue that Sape is not a mere imitation of European culture and dress. Rather, La Sape is a lifestyle that transcends social conditions and informs «the way [to] speak, the way [to] move, a way of presenting lives and being somebody in a society that doesn’t give [one] many opportunities, it’s about [being] confident in oneself despite the circumstances.« Angela Evancie 2013


Kai Löffelbein is a photographer based in Germany. He studied political
science in and photography. His work reflects his interest in the ways political and economic structures shape modern society. Kai worked in various countries in Asia and Africa. Löffelbein has exhibited internationally and his awards include the Henri Nannen Prize, the UNICEF Photo of the Year Award, The New York Photo Award, the DAYS JAPAN International Award, the FotoVisura Photography Grant and the Px3 Prix de la Photographie. He is one of the Critical Mass Top 50 Selected Artists and received a grant from the Magnum Foundation.

Kai published his first book 'Ctrl-X, a topography of e-waste' together with publishing house Steidl in 2018.