Mardi Gras Carnival Art / February 20, 2019 / Eve Callahan
Characterized by costumes bright decorations and general merriment often induced by the consumption of alcohol the celebration came close to being banned several times during the 19th century but the formation of a social organization (krewe) by six men and the resulting Carnival Parade on the evening of Mardi Gras in 1857 rejuvenated and restructured the mayhem. Though the festivities were halted for the duration of the Civil War they resumed in full force upon its conclusion. New krewes have been formed continuously since the first parade and are added as space allows annually.
Masks made from pale pastel plumage with shiny sequins are standard fare at Mardi gras Carnival and masquerade parties. There s an allure and style to them possessed by no other costume element. Much is made of our desire to pretend and the imagination s ability to do so. Few activities give us the opportunity as readily as does the costume party. Frills and flourishes that have no other place are found in abundance at parades of show costume-clad dancers wearing yards of sequined fishnet and feathered elegance. None of it would have the same mystery without the elegance of the mask. These beautiful adornments have a history of their own that heralds back to court functions in pre-Revolutionary France. There s the hint of a palace in every feathery sequined one of them.
Behind the band come six "strong men" from the village often the tradition of carrying the torch or flambeaux is passed from father to son as the elder gets on in years. They sometimes have a helper walking beside them just in case. It s a hard and difficult job. The torches are similar in length to a caber and have been soaked for many months to ensure they stay alight. The flambeaux are then followed by many floats in which the local inhabitants deck both the float and themselves out in a variety of colours and costumes. Many are topical political statements. The more whisky that s handed around the waiting crowd the funnier they seem.