Mardi Gras Carnival Art / February 20, 2019 / Imelda Chang
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.
Rio s Mardi Grad carnival is famed not only for its brilliant parades but its street parties the biggest of which is held on Cinelândia Square brimming with acclaimed orchestras and singers for people to dance the night away. The elaborate parades staged by the city s major samba schools in the Sambadrome are world famous. Parading in the Sambadrome runs over four entire nights and is part of an official competition divided into seven divisions in which a single samba school is declared that year s winner. As well as the five main parades visitors can enjoy the Carnival balls held around the city including the famous Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel which requires guests to wear black tie or a luxury costume and often a number of international and local VIPs are in attendance.
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.