JP Mika (1980-), Democratic Republic of the Congo


, 2014

Oil and acrylic on canvas

23 1/4 x 31 1/4 in. (59 x 79 cm)


Signed and dated

About this artwork

The contrast between the two main characters in this painting by J.P. Mika could be seen as a commentary on life in Congolese societies. The well-dressed urban chimp in his goggles and bike shorts could be described in local parlance as a “sapeur” and is a striking contrast to the rural, modest individual.

The word “sapeur” comes from French slang “saper,” translated by a Congolese artist as “to dress with class.” A woman associated with “la sape” is called a “sapeuse.” The word “sape” has even been made into an acronym in DRC - the Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People. An emphasis on being elegantly dressed has had political overtones since the movement first emerged in colonial times, and it took on a new meaning in the 1970s as a protest against the government.

Below is a painting by Mika’s mentor, Chéri Chérin, that is also about “La Sape.”

BAFA & Arts Dialogue. “Cheri-Cherin (Kinkonda Joseph).” Result of an interview with the artist with translation from the French by Bastiaan Körner in Gallery Art Korner in The Hague in October 2004.

Juliette Lyons. “La Sape : an elegance that brought peace in the midst of Congolese chaos.” Le Journal International, May 12, 2014. Accessed May 3, 2023.

Melanie Kembrey. “Strutting with La Sape: Tariq Zaidi captures the extraordinary.” The Sydney Morning Herald, May 3, 2019.

Piasa. “JP Mika.” Artists. Accessed May 3, 2023.

The Jean Pigozzi Contemporary African Art Collection. “JP Mika.” Accessed May 3, 2023.

Chéri Cherin, Phénomène de la sape, 2005, 129.5 x 239 cm, oil on canvas.