This time of year my thoughts drift to New Orleans, imagining the Mardi Gras Indians in their final days of preparation for Mardi Gras Day when the world will first see their new suits. Colors and stories unveiled, magic is happening.
Our work with the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans has spanned more than a decade and we are still learning about this talented, colorful and deeply historical community. Originally collaborating with Cherice Harrison-Nelson of the Guardians of the Flame, we began delivering sewing machines to this vibrant community in 2007.
Sewing is integral to the Mardi Gras Indian culture. All year, masking Indians work on their suits in secrecy, designing and hand beading these works of art. Suits tell stories holding deeper meaning far beyond their beautiful facade. The Indians need sewing machines to stitch the beaded panels together, to erect the magnificent architecture of their suits. We take heavy duty machines–machines that can sew through the thick canvas carrying the beads and feathers.
In the last few years I’ve been working with Chief Howard of the Creole Wild West and Queen Rukiya Brown, collaborating to deliver machines to masking Indians. With each visit I learn a little more.
On Mardi Gras Day, if you listen really carefully, you may hear the drums, the chants, the music rising up as the Indians parade through the streets of New Orleans.
Stay tuned for exciting news–a collaborative benefit in which you can participate!