by Naomi House
Mardi Gras & Filming Tradition from New Orleans to West Africa
I live in the Treme in New Orleans right near the old parade routes on Claiborne Avenue. Years ago the city decided to preserve the French Quarter and instead demolished parts of the Treme in order to build a giant overpass along Claiborne. They tore down the old oak trees and also took away the center of much of the Mardi Gras tradition in the Treme. Treme is “one of the first African American neighborhoods in New Orleans, where Creoles of color settled and formed a rich cultural heritage.”
How did I learn all of this? I have only been living here a year. I saw a documentary. I have always been a documentary fan but this Mardi Gras day I was (mostly) home with a cold so I was watching the local PBS station, WYES, and saw several fantastic documentaries on the history of Black participation in Mardi Gras in New Orleans, including All on a Mardi Gras Day. And so much of the IMPACT was the combination of current interviews with historic film of pre-overpass Claiborne Mardi Gras parades.
That really connected with me because T160K is working with Instruments 4 Africa in West Africa to preserve the heritage and culture and musical traditions … through FILM! Documentaries are so much more than entertainment or educational. They are PRESERVATION!!! I cannot tell you how much, as a former librarian, this excites me. Instruments 4 Africa knows that culture, tradition and music practiced right now may not always be with us. Through filming the practitioners they are preserving the heritage for future generations and anyone can help them complete their work.
*photo of my husband, Sana, and a Mardi Gras Indian, Spyboy – we also got to meet the Treme Baby Dolls