Since I’m enjoying the new HBO series Treme so much, it seems fitting that one of my posts be devoted to the elaborate Native American themed costumes worn by the New Orleans Black Indians (Mardi Gras Indians).The costumes are a tradition dating back to the mid-19th century and are said to have begun as a tribute to the Native American Indian tribes that assisted runaway slaves.
During celebrations, various tribes battle for prominence by demonstrating excellence in singing, dancing, and costuming. Over the years, the costuming has become increasingly elaborate. A finished suit can use several thousand dollars worth of materials and weigh up to 150 pounds.
Much of the beadwork and featherwork is handsewn. Even so, the suits are traditionally worn once and then stripped of the feathers and beads that can be used to create suits for the coming year.
Steve Mann, one of my favorite photographers, has been documenting these artists for over 20 years and was kind enough to share some of his work with me. Look at these amazing images: