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!


Darwin BondGraham said...

You've got some amazing photos!
I didn't see most of those tribes you have pictured here. Some friends were trying to estimate the number of Indians out this year and said that given how many were walking along Claiborne they thought about half of them were back in town to participate. But seeing your photos gives me hope that more than half the tribes were back this year!

HORIZON said...

You had me worried just there for a split second- the mention of a rival gang and street fight- l was thinking, "Kirsty run!!"
Think of the work that went into these outfits- fantastic! Such vibrant colours too :).
We can both appreciate the need to keep up traditions.