Tribal Design Mardi Gras Style
In 1993 illustrator/designer Mark Andresen was commissioned to do a group portrait of 17 of New Orleans legendary Mardi Gras Indian chiefs. The purpose was to make lithograph posters to sell with proceeds being split among the artist and participants. As Andresen told me, and for those who don’t know: The black Indians of New Orleans are a singularly unique black culture but also deeply part of the authenticity of the city’s traditions. In many cases, these are mixed blood African-Americans with some Indian ancestors. Slaves who ran away and intermarried. They started out as gangs and territorial fights using Mardi Gras’s tradition of “masking” as a way to avoid police and have fierce rivalries – fights with guns and knives. The masking became more and more of their focus than the violence. A hundred years later, these people have become folk artisans making magnificent costumes. Looking more like James Audubon’s bird portraits than anything. Magnificent like Montezuma’s plumed finery. They are also a wellspring of much New Orleans music.
Photo by Will Crocker
Andresen is currently trying to place these paintings into a New Orleans museum as historical documentation of the Black Indian tradition. There are two museums in New Orleans: The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the High Museum. “These museums have asked me to DONATE the art, but, being an artist, I can’t afford to give them away,” he laments. So he is trying to get financial sponsorship so that this art can indeed be donated to a museum and made public. You can help.
To help support this preservation/donation project contact: firstname.lastname@example.org