Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Little Tombs of Homes, of Lives

I saw this on "Blogging New Orleans". This is an art installation that was in New York and created by an artist from New Orleans, Jana Napoli. She came and toured the flooded neighborhoods after Katrina and found a common thread: drawers. Drawers from kitchens where family meals were prepared, drawers from tables where those meals were eaten, drawers from family heirlooms passed down the generations, drawers from cabinets, from desks, from vanities. She rummaged through the debris left by the side of those gutted homes and picked out drawers.

Those drawers form the 'Floodwall' installation. They are like little tombs as she says in the video on the website. She managed in some instances to contact the owners of some of the drawers and find out their experience of Katrina and her wrath. Those accounts are posted at the bottom of the installation.

I would love to see this exhibit but sadly its run has just ended in New York. You can visit the website and see a video about it here. I know there will be more and more exhibits about Katrina and her effect on the lives of the people of New Orleans. I hope people go, I hope people remember, I hope through their sadness they can remain angry enough to maintain the political pressure that will enable the willing to build a better gulf coast and a better defense and emergency system.

Why neglect New Orleans??

Tomorrow the President is coming to visit. He is scheduled to go to one of the New Orleans public schools. I can't find out much more than that as to his schedule for the day. Metroblog New Orleans has a post about a meeting some folks are organizing to protest his visit.
I hate sounding jaded and defeatist but I also have to agree with the post author who suggests that perhaps a protest may be futile and that the best thing to do is to ignore him.

The Bush administration has failed New Orleans many many times over. They failed to have an adequate emergency preparations for the levees breaking (which was predicted and warned of over and over), for the care of those citizens who could not help themselves, for the evacuation of families, for the funds being allocated to the right people for rebuilding..... the list goes on and on. America should be angry - really angry. Billions (or maybe trillions?) of tax dollars have been spent and are being spent on a war that should not have happened in the first place. That money should have been allocated where it could make a difference to the lives of the citizens of this country.

New Orleans needs help. Yes, all the tourist stuff is up and running and tourists NEED to come back and are slowly. And yes, Mardi Gras was a huge success this year and lots of people came to experience it. But a drive around the east side of this city reveals those still missing, buildings unoccupied, neighborhoods empty. New Orleans is still limping. New Orleans still needs help.

It is not the people of America that are not helping (volunteers are still coming down here) but the government that needs to step in and do its job. I don't quite know why and I'd love someone to enlighten me, but the US government seems to think its okay to neglect this city. And this has gone on long before Katrina. Is it because of the whole French connection, the Louisiana Purchase thing? Is it because there are so many blacks (ex-slaves) in this city? Is it because this city likes a drink or five and to have a good time? Or is it because this city is so focused on celebrating that they don't complain enough?

What I do know is that the culture here is priceless and crucial. But I also know how unlike the rest of America it is too. Is that why? Is it because this city refuses to be taken over by chain restaurants, stores, big new generic homes and shopping malls? PLEASE someone tell me why?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Crickets - in February???

I am finding this SO disturbing. As I got home tonight I paused at the front door to our shotgun apartment, to listen to crickets! It was about 72 degrees with sunshine today. I'm sure that s likely normal for Nawlins but not for ME!!
Don't get me wrong I'm not complaining. I like warm sunny weather as much as the next person. The thing that disturbs me is that it makes me fear what it will be like to live here in June - and then July, then August and September.
And please bare in mind that there comes with hot humid sticky weather a very large hazard - mosquitoes!! They are the size of dragons down here and the bite like snakes!!
I love this city, I love living here but I keep wondering when I'll have to "pay" for all of this and I have a feeling it will be SUMMER!!!! Stay tuned .......

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mardi Gras Indians History

I have just found an excellent history an description of the Mardi Gras Indian culture. Here is a link to the page.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mardi Gras Indians

A spot of bright colour in the distance coming out of a neighbourhood signals the presence of a tribe of Mardi Gras Indians. They do not parade officially and finding them is a mixture of luck and a willingness to go into neighbourhoods which are impoverished and sometimes dangerous. Finding this awesome cultural spectacle is one of the highlights of my life.
The Indians have a rich history. They make their intricate costumes themselves and every bead and feather is carefully placed. The goal is to be the most beautifully masked Indian. Wikipedia has more on them if you're interested click here

Suddenly the chanting changes walking through the neighbourhood - chants of "we're goin to get em"etc. A rival tribe has been spotted!
Here comes the rival tribe. In the beginning of Mardi Gras Indian days the tribes would fight with violent and deadly consequences. People used to run when they heard the Indians coming. Today they are welcomed because the violence has been relinquished and now the "fight" takes the form of a verbal repartee which is practiced for a couple of months prior to Mardi Gras and they also compete over which has the most beautiful costume. We were lucky to witness one such "fight" on Dumaine and Fourth Street.

He'll be chief one day!

Mardi Gras Crowds

He's my favorite!
She was just too cute!

Her sandwich board says "If its broke FIX IT!!" - there are lots of satirical costumes for Mardi Gras.
These guys are part of an unofficial "walking" parade.

I've actually seen this chopped up caravanette driving round Uptown. Now I understand the colour scheme - purple, green and gold are Mardi Gras colours.
People put their kids on ladders to get better throws. Kids are also affectionately referred to as "bead magnets" as the krewe member tend to throw their best stuff to the kids.

Even houses get dressed up.

She has king cake "babies" tied in her wig - now that's cool!