McKissick Museum hosts traditional Mardi Gras costumes from HBO's 'Treme'
These Mardi Gras Indian Suits were used in the filming of HBO's show 'Treme.'
McKissick Museum Visitor Services Assistant, Jacklyn Roney, regularly gives tours of the 'Well Suited' exhibit.
USC Freshman, Nora Abouissa, toured the exhibit as part of an English class assignment.
Intricate beading can make costumes weigh up to 600 pounds and cost as much as $3,000 to make.
By Desirae Gostlin CAROLINA NEWS & REPORTER
New Orleans is known to havea melting pot of cultures—Native American, African and Creole—and the pinnacle of those blending cultures is Mardi Gras. Beads, booze, costumes and parades, the streets teem with people, but one Mardi Gras tradition is in danger of dying.
The Mardi Gras Indians have been parading through New Orleans since 1885. They wear ornate costumes of feathers, rhinestones, fabric and beads. These costumes usually measure around eight feet tall and can weigh up to 600 pounds. They usually take at least six months to plan and create and can cost around $3,000. Each costume is custom designed for its wearer and is made up of seven separate pieces.
“The tradition of Mardi Gras kind of started because of they were trying to find a way to combat the racism and the segregation that was happening,” Jacklyn Roney said. “[They were] trying to find a way to say, ‘Hey we’re here and we’re not going anywhere,’” Roney said, who is the Visitor Services Assistant for the McKissick Museum. Roney regularly gives tours of “Well Suited,” the current exhibit which features Mardi Gras Indian Suits from HBO’s “Treme.”
“That’s kind of how the big costumes developed. They wanted to kind of put it out there and make sure it was well-known and that everyone could see them. That they weren’t hiding away to keep themselves safe,” Roney said.
The big costumes of today are a new development in Mardi Gras Indian culture. Originally, they would throw together a hodgepodge of whatever they had to design a costume. The elaborate costume design evolved as a way of peace keeping between rival tribes. Instead of knives and guns, they decided to settle their differences with needle and thread. Thus the modern costumes were born.
But the cost and cumbersomeness of the costumes is not the only reason the tradition is dwindling. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans laid in ruins. Its population and unique culture were scattered across the country. Many costumes were destroyed in the flood waters.
Nora Abouissa toured the exhibit as part of an English class assignment because it mirrored what she was reading.
“…Subcultures not being recognized, and we have kind of white washed everything, and made it more of a white America,” Abouissa said. “We’re here to just see how there’s still live culture in America, and how we should recognize the diversity.”
The exhibit is free and open to the public, and will be going on until July 2018.