The heart and soul of New Orleans

New Orleans (the largest city in Louisiana, in the United States), founded by French settlers at the beginning of the eighteenth century, is marked every year by the traditional Mardi Gras carnival in which were the Black Indians, who have been going on for the long haul. Genealogy is featured in this gallery.

Black Indians refer to several groups of African Americans who have organized into different “tribes” (“tribes”). tribes “) carried out in succession” big heads Parade through the streets of New Orleans during Carnival in gorgeous costumes directly inspired by Native American customs that intertwine feathers, shells, and pearls of all colors, inlaid with African religious motifs and practices.

Centuries-old tradition

Black Indians, whose traditions date back to the second half of the nineteenth century in the context of racial segregation in the United States reinforced by Jim Crow laws, carry with them the memory and heritage of the American Indians, who were also oppressed – and perished – by European colonizers and with whom African Americans were woven, Those turned into slavery, multiple links – including genetic links.

Far from focusing solely on carnival and its main characters, the show explains a complex history and traces back the multiple underpinnings of this inseparable New Orleans carnival tradition.

Therefore, the procession of Black Indians first forms the horizon of the gallery, a common thread that ties each of the divisions together through costumes before, in a final section, wholly unfolds.

Before an explosion of colour, rhythm, and song, the exhibition is concerned with unraveling issues, naming different actors, identifying and locating objects: from the first European expeditions in the sixteenth century to the colonization of Louisiana, from the Civil War to Hurricane Katrina, it is a matter of recalling history to better chart resilience through time. which black Indians still embody today.

The ‘White Bison’ costume worn by Eleanor Brown under the show name ‘Big Queen Rokia’.© Quai Branly Museum – Jacques Chirac / Photo: Pauline Guyon

we will understand, black indians It covers a much wider field than its title alone suggests and returns, somewhat tediously, to the turbulent history of African Americans in Louisiana. Having been immediately snapped up by a stunning Big Chief costume designed by (after a few thousand hours of work) Daryl Montana, the great chief of the Yellow Pocahontas Hunters tribe and son of the iconic Allison Montana (alias) big tutti head) – Then the exhibition reveals its historical and geographical subject in six work paintings that doubly depict the concepts of violence and steadfastness. Black Indians did not exist as such yet, but the exhibition reveals their beginnings.

The route, interspersed with costumes, interviews, and educational panels that offer a young audience the essential keys to understanding, goes back to Louisiana (which, at the time of its colonization, covered a vast area comprising fourteen of the present-day fifty US states) and its early inhabitants, attests to many things that once belonged to the inhabitants The originals – headgear, tomahawks, warrior jackets, etc. – and retrace the disastrous European campaigns of the 16th century that began to decimate the local population.

The French conquest of the North American continent, motivated by the discovery of a passage to China through the “Southern Sea” (the Pacific Ocean), originally motivated by Spanish colonists, would lead to the capture of the Mississippi Basin. in 1682 and then upon the founding of New Orleans in 1718.

Then the history of Louisiana is inextricably linked with the history of the transatlantic slave trade, which the exhibition rigorously evokes through a collection of engravings, paintings and traces of materials in which they still bear unspeakable violence – metal shackles reminiscent of the brutality of the crossing or even the glass beads that colonists used as currency of exchange – documents nautical and other maps and plans (many of which are copies at the expense of actual documents or works in question) detailing the annexation of this vast area.

The confrontation between Amerindians and a deported African population, also turned into slavery, is taking shape step by step: Black Indians’ costumes and banners are there to restore their lineage, their common resistance and the cultural bubble that made up New Orleans—which, together with the Caribbean, was the world’s largest producer of sugar and coffee. In the eighteenth century.

Coffee culture on Bourbon Island, circa 1800.© Quai Branly Museum – Jacques Chirac / Photo: Claude Germain

This combination of influences and sounds—Amerindian, African, Caribbean, Cuban, Haitian, etc.—is then symbolized by the Congo Place, in the historic district of Treme, where slaves could gather during the only day of rest, Sunday, to exchange, dance and play music .

Many of the paraphernalia on display attest to this identity in (re)permanent rebuilding and the key role of this place until after the sale of Louisiana to the United States by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803, then the Civil War, the abolition of slavery in 1865 and the years of apartheid that followed. At this historical crossroads, the legends, beliefs and customs of the various displaced populations appear, intersect and overlap, it is there that jazz will be born, and from the nineteenth century, the first costumes will appear depicting black Indians.

The gallery, so dense and bountiful, had to return, before opening in a final, more airy segment dedicated entirely to the procession, on segregation and racism in the United States, even its most contemporary manifestations, especially in the era of Donald Trump.

Archives and historical works by contemporary artists, such as Vincent Valdez’s monumental paintings illustrating the persistence of white supremacy in the United States, contrast with the disaster of Hurricane Katrina which, in 2005, highlighted the failure of public authorities and stark social and geographic inequalities in New Orleans—particularly poor maintenance Dams that flooded the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, which are largely inhabited by African Americans.

This is exactly what the series says. trim (HBO, 2010) by American director David Simon (bugged, we own this city), which follows in particular over the course of the episodes of rebuilding a group of Black Indians after the passage of the cyclone.

View of the exhibition.© Quai Branly Museum – Jacques Chirac / Photo: Leo Delafontein

The latter part of the exhibition, rooted squarely in the present, contrasts the rest of the way by offering an explosion of color as costumes, photos or videos testify not only to the wealth of Black Indians but to the entire artistic culture of the African-American community of New Orleans, which occupies a section of Full of popular culture (such as the famous song Echo Echo World Health OrganizationAnd the From healing to recovery, it chronicles the confrontation of two tribes of black Indians during Mardi Gras).

Black Indians hang out on their shoulders with Baby Dolls, who celebrate women’s power, and Skull and Bones Gangs, whose skeletal costumes recall, among other things, the influence of Haitian voodoo and West African religions. The exhibition also recalls the central role of the Social Assistance and Pleasure Clubs, charities created at the end of the nineteenth century that were crucial to the development of second lines (support ranges) and Jazz funerals which still plays a valuable and unifying role.

Finally, note that the exhibition extends to music with, every Sunday, brass bands (Brass Band Funk Second Line) to discover free access to the museum’s gardens, as well as a rich program of concerts at Claude Lévi-Strauss Theater that will end on December 3 and 4 With the 79rs Gang, formed by two great chiefs from two rival clans.

Practical information

new orleans black indians, Musée Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac (Paris 7), until January 15, 2023 – Tuesday to Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursdays until 10 p.m. – Ticket office here

#heart #soul #Orleans



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