From Chimamanda Adichie’s widely-publicized made-in-Nigeria wardrobe to Teju Cole’s Ikire Jones scarves to Prof Ato Quayson’s fedora hats, fashion and style have become a new mode of self-expression among African literary figures. They effortlessly blend literary success and a love for style. In so doing, these writers have transformed the idea of the public intellectual into a lifestyle.

One of the leading figures of this new age of African literary culture where fashion and style matter is Alain Mabanckou. Mabanckou was born in the Congo-Brazzaville town of Pointe-Noire. He made a splash on the global literary scene in 2005 with the publication of Broken Glass. More novels followed and established him as the storyteller of the unconventional. He is brazenly committed to experimentation at the level form and language. There are artists who find success by nurturing a worshipful relationship to tradition. That is not Mabanckou. A prolific writer, Manbackou has made an industry out of exploring the margins of literary tradition.

His body of work is distinct and boundary pushing, but so is his personal style. We began paying attention to Mabanckou’s style about a years ago when he delivered a lecture in College de France wearing a cobalt blue tuxedo. What we’ve since learned is that his style, like his novels, is far from conventional.

His sartorial preference is edgy and exhibits influences from La Sape, a decades-old fashion sub-culture that originated in Congo-Brazzaville and that features tailored suits, bright colors, quirky style compositions, and funky accessories. Mabanckou’s blazers and shirts come in bold colors and print fabric. He accessorizes with hats and pocket squares. His round-rimmed glasses might appear to be a functional piece, but it is, at closer look, a bold statement of style.

Mabanckou’s style is both elaborate and precise, so you know it requires a good bit of orchestration and expertise. That’s where Jocelyn Armel aka Le Bachelor comes in. He is Mabanckou’s stylist and the brains behind some of the novelist’s most striking looks. Le Bachelor is a Paris-based designer who is also well-studied in sapology. His fashion line called Connivences features Italian-made blazers and fashion accessories, which he makes available through Sape et Co, a boutique in Chateau Rouge that he’s owned for over ten years.

Mabanckou is changing the rules on how to tell African stories, but he is also changing the rule book on how to look like an African writer. On July 2nd, Mabanckou will deliver the keynote address at the 2017 Africa Writes Festival in London. Of course, we are eager to hear what he has to say about “his journey as a writer and the politics of language and style.” But after the blue-tuxedo affair in Paris, we are rather curious about what he will wear in London.

Enjoy this small selection of Mabanckou’s undeniably fashionable wardrobe.

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Impossibly Dapper Novelist: A Look at Alain Mabanckou’s Style File | Africa Writes - 2017/06/22

    […] article was originally published by Brittle Paper and is republished here with the permission of the […]

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

The Brittle Paper Literary Awards: New Date for the Announcement of Winners

The announcement of the winners of the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards was scheduled for 23 September 2017. However, a change […]

The Reviews Are In! | Namwali Serpell Has High Praise for Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu

Screen-Shot-2017-09-20-at-4.57.42-PM-e1505944728679 copy

Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is one of the hit novels of 2017. A historical drama, it tells the story of an 18th […]

New Website Collects Everything Binyavanga Wainaina Has Written Since the Late 1990s

A new Website has collected everything published by Binyavanga Wainaina since his writing career began in the late 1990s. The […]

Opportunity for All Writers | Submit to Vanguard Literary Services’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Anthology

To mark the 2017 World HIV/AIDS Day on December 1, Vanguard Literary Services, a bookselling company in Nigeria, has called […]

The Graywolf Press Africa Prize Launches with Igoni A. Barrett as Judge

igoni a. barrett

A new award just dropped: the Graywolf Press Africa Prize, for “a first novel manuscript by an African author primarily residing […]

Nnedi Okorafor Celebrates Everyday African Life in New Superhero Comic

okorafor comics

A little over two years ago, South African Sci-fi writer Lauren Beukes collaborated with D. C. Comics on a Wonder […]