OLG and DCRT
Strategic Plan
2014-15 through 2018-19

         

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Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras: The Power Of The Mask

Although costumes and masks are essential elements of rituals and festivals the world over, in New Orleans, disguise has special significance. To "mask" connotes transformation - a new face and attire allows an individual to transcend everyday life, to escape the prosaic and immerse him- or herself in the magic and power of Mardi Gras.

A gallery devoted to masking illustrates how this phenomenon manifests itself in various cultural groups. Although disguise was associated with Carnival early on, attempts to selectively restrict and discourage it lasted well into the twentieth century. Historical documents reveal officials believed political unrest and slave rebellion would result from the anonymity afforded by masking. And, despite the fact that costuming was an essential element of organized activities by the late 1900s, street masking was frowned upon for adults, especially women. In 1889, a tabloid charged "there was a degree of immodesty exhibited by nearly all the female masqueraders on the streets."

The Mardi Gras Indians, a group whose exact origins are unknown, are represented through an extraordinary selection of "suits"- magnificent beaded and feathered creations exhibited along with a video of members describing and demonstrating the unique movements and chants associated with individual tribes.

Historic photographs and memorabilia trace the most common form of "unofficial" merrymaking: street masking. Groups such as the Baby Dolls, Bucketmen, Skeletons and Monkeys are profiled here. Contests such as the Bourbon Street Awards are reflected in fantastic costumes like the twinkle-lighted Merlin.