Video by AXEL KAPPES
From the "Beads for the Chief" project Kickstarter page:
Every year, New Orleans' Mardi Gras Indians make and wear a "new suit." These are elaborately decorated, fantastically feathered costumes generally somewhat reminiscent of the attire of Native Americans, as seen on the HBO series "Treme." Big Chief Victor Harris and his Tribe, the Mandingo Warriors, are distinctive: they mask in an African style.
Many thousands of hours and dollars are required to create these works of art. When completed, they may be valued at $50,000 or even more. Many people donate their time and energy to help with the sewing, but funds are needed to purchase beads, feathers, and other supplies. It's hard to find the money in today's economy.
The Chief and his Tribe also work hard to keep the young people of the city off the mean streets, providing school supplies, sewing classes and mentoring. The video tells the story: sewing, masking, performing, and teaching the culture to young people. This is an endangered tradition. Many Indians, among thousands of others, have been unable to return to New Orleans since the flood following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Victor Harris didn't miss even one Mardi Gras. He has masked every year for 47 years. Let’s help him make it 48!
The Chief's New Suit is dedicated this year to the memory of Mandingo Warrior Collins "Coach" Lewis, who was the Chief's spiritual brother and friend, a cultural warrior, artist, teacher, drummer, and soulful singer. He had sewn with the Chief for all 47 years before passing unexpectedly this fall. We miss you, Coach!