Mardi Gras Indian

As part of its contribution to the development of more vibrant communities in New Orleans, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra has continued its community outreach at newly rebuilt or renovated community sites in three distinct neighborhoods across the city: Algiers, Central City, and Lakeview. By initiating activities in these areas, the LPO and community leaders from each of the selected sites are creating dynamic spaces where neighborhoods of people can come together to participate in community-building by engaging in cultural and educational activities.

One aspect of the LPO’s partnership with the Mahalia Jackson Early Education and Family Learning Center in Central City will involve developing a series of cultural actives with the Creole Wild West Indians. The Creole Wild West Indians are the oldest and largest tribe of Mardi Gras Indians, groups of African American Carnival leaders who reinforce the cultural significance of New Orleans’s world-renowned Mardi Gras celebration. The Indians are known for their elaborate feather costumes, which are modeled after Native American garbs, and their dedication to preserving their unique culture for future generations. Chief Howard, who will lead the activities, stated that the Indians seek to preserve their culture not just for this generation but for many future generations to come. His forward-thinking has contributed to the development of outreach activities that engage the community.

The LPO’s Mardi Gras Indian activities will build on the existing partnership among the Mahalia Jackson Center, the Creole Wild West Indians, Artfully AWARE, and Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans, which focuses on teaching community members different aspects of Mardi Gras Indian culture, including oral traditions, sewing, chanting, beading, and supporting the arts.

Drawing on the significance of chanting and drum beats to the Mardi Gras Indians, the LPO will attend Saturday meetings where they will learn the Mardi Gras Indian culture along with the community. In a series of visits to the community, LPO principal percussionist, Nena Lorenz, will display and demonstrate the different percussion instruments used by the orchestra and will incorporate a drum circle into her percussion workshops. Students will create their own drums or tambourines and play along with the drum circle, creating an interactive and informative experience.

At a culminating concert performed by the full LPO in April at the Mahalia Jackson Center, the Creole Wild West Indians will parade into the performance space as students “open” for the orchestra by playing along with the beats learned during the percussion workshops. The concert will take place during another significant cultural event in New Orleans: the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and will enable community members to participate in their own Jazz & Heritage celebration.

The instruction about and celebration of the Creole Wild West Indian culture is only one fraction of the LPO’s community outreach. Other efforts include series of ensemble visits to the community, community concerts, and involvement in an array of community programming at each of the sites, which will make significant contributions to vibrancy of New Orleans.

 

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