Super Sunday 2011

The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians are an enigma even for New Orleans natives–and we can believe how inexplicable they may seem to non-natives.  There are about 40 Mardi Gras Indian tribes, organized into Uptown and Downtown styles (their costumes, called “suits”, differing in construction materials and technique).  Born of affinity between African Americans and Native Americans (with a nod to the large Sicilian immigrant community in New Orleans, which formed in the 19th century–St. Joseph’s day is a “holy day” for the Indians).  The whole activity is called “masking Indian” and they’ve been doing it for a long time.  Costumes can weigh well in excess of 100lbs and cost thousands of dollars to create.  And this isn’t a lazy pursuit–suits are torn down each year and a new suit created.   Your next questions:  How can this activity be sustained?  How long do these suits take to make?  The answer is complete dedication–Mardi Gras Indians work tirelessly the entire year to make their suits, with many dedicating virtually every free hour outside their full time jobs to working on the suits.   The punchline is that New Orleans owes a huge cultural and musical debt to the Mardi Gras Indians and their artistry.   It’s an almost incomprehensible burden to bear to create these suits and an almost unbelievable experience to see them in person.  If you haven’t yet visited New Orleans for a Super Sunday, we hope the images in the gallery will illustrate what an incredible day this is!

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