Signed and dated
JP Mika (1980-), Democratic Republic of the Congo
Oil and acrylic on canvas
23 1/4 x 31 1/4 in. (59 x 79 cm)
Signed and dated
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. https://bahai-library.com/bafa/c/cherin.htm.
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. https://www.lejournalinternational.fr/La-Sape-an-elegance-that-brought-peace-in-the-midst-of-Congolese-chaos_a1871.html.
Melanie Kembrey. “Strutting with La Sape: Tariq Zaidi captures the extraordinary.” The Sydney Morning Herald, May 3, 2019. https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/strutting-with-la-sape-tariq-zaidi-captures-the-extraordinary-20190429-p51i7g.html.
Piasa. “JP Mika.” Artists. Accessed May 3, 2023. https://www.piasa.fr/en/artists/JP-Mika.
The Jean Pigozzi Contemporary African Art Collection. “JP Mika.” Accessed May 3, 2023. https://www.caacart.com/artiste/mika-jp/.