The Ohio State University at Newark


New Orleans Photography Exhibit Opens at Ohio State Newark

NEWARK, OH, October 12, 2015 —The Ohio State University at Newark presents “Of the Nation: New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians 2014,” an exhibit by photographer Pableaux Johnson. Opening night is Oct. 22, 2015, from 7 to 9 p.m. and includes a talk by the photographer and a film screening by Ohio State Newark students. The exhibit will be available through the fall in the LeFevre Art Gallery, 1199 University Drive, Newark, Ohio.

Johnson’s photographs capture one of New Orleans’ most colorful, yet lesser known communities: Mardi Gras Indians. Practitioners of a century-old parading tradition, Indians spend countless hours each year designing and sewing intricate suits of beads and feathers, with the goal of being the “prettiest” during Carnival season.

Mardi Gras Indians are African Americans; legend has it that the tradition called “masking Indian” began as a way to pay homage to the indigenous people who helped their ancestors escape slavery. While the suits are their most immediately recognizable tradition, other aspects of masking Indian – community service, chants and song, ritual street confrontations, drums and dance – form the living core of Mardi Gras Indian culture.

Johnson will discuss the challenges of photographing this culture in motion in a talk titled “Tradition, Change and Ringin’ Drums: Photographing New Orleans Street Culture.” The talk will be preceded by a 25-minute documentary by Ohio State Newark students and creative director Michael Yearling. “The Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs of New Orleans” was developed from interviews students conducted in 2012 and 2015 with the legendary leaders of the neighborhood groups. In this preview of the documentary, to be aired on New Orleans PBS station WYES during Mardi Gras season, the chiefs recount the history of the Indians, nearly lost when their neighborhoods were flooded after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and their efforts to preserve this rich culture by passing on its intricate, secret traditions to younger generations. Yearling and the student filmmakers will contribute their perspective on preserving Indian culture through ethnography and film. Pralines, coffee and tea will be served.

Pableaux Johnson is a writer and photographer based in New Orleans. His work has appeared regularly in the New York Times and Garden & Gun. Johnson is also the author of three books on Louisiana food culture and founder of the electronic publishing company Blue Crab Labs.

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