Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 8th 2016 Contents A25
Monday, February 8, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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It s glitter season in New Orleans. A time for
feathers, paper mache, sequins, paint, bailing wire,
bones, and just about any other item that can be
used for decoration. Across garages, kitchen tables
and warehouses, residents are feverishly sewing
elaborate costumes, painting floats and decorating
Outside of New Orleans, Mardi Gras has often
been perceived as a raucous time of drinking too
much beer, throwing beads and nudity. But to those
who live here and essentially put on the show for
the world, it s a wildly creative time of personal
expression, rich history and family fun. Behind the
parades and pageantry are regular citizens who spend
all year and often a lot of their own money to trans-
form the city and themselves for a few days.
The Associated Press talked to some of the men
and women who make the magic happen.
Cari Rhoton uses glitter as a verb. In the garage
of her Kenner, Louisiana, home she and her friends
gather Sunday evenings to glitter shoes and decorate
boots, ballet flats and stilettos. Rhoton is a member
of the all-female Krewe of Muses whose 1,030 mem-
bers paraded on February 4. The women throw beads
and other "throws" to the crowd, but the real prizes
are the roughly 30 custom-designed shoes that each
woman is encouraged to make and hand out to lucky
Rhoton gathers shoes all year round. Friends drop
them off at her house or she finds them at garage
sales or thrift stores. Sunday evenings she sits in her
"Glitterage"---a two-car garage where she has organ-
ised boxes of different colours of glitter, sequins and
beads, a glue gun and boxes of embellishments that
she ll put on the shoes.
"They re little pieces of folk art I believe," she said.
"You hand them off the float to people who come
to the parade and it is a treasure. Once you give a
shoe to someone you want to keep making shoes
Like all good New Orleans creative projects, the
Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus was conceived
in a bar, said Ryan Ballard, who is the group s overlord.
Ballard and a friend were talking about how there
was no crossover between the science fiction and
fantasy fans who dressed up for events like Comic-
Con and Mardi Gras.
The name is a mash-up of Chewbacca, the furry
Wookiee from Star Wars who was longtime friend
to Han Solo, and Bacchus, the god of wine. Started
six years ago, as a small group of sci-fi fans, Chew-
bacchus has grown into a parade of roughly 2,500
people and includes such diverse sub-krewes as the
Rolling Elliotts, who dress up as Elliott from the film
ET the Extra-Terrestrial and ride bikes, and Krewe
du Who, which celebrates the TV show Dr Who.
"For a lot of people who have never experienced
Mardi Gras they think it s like girls gone wild. There s
the cheap plastic beads. There s a bunch of people
who get really drunk," said Ballard. "But that s really
not what Mardi Gras is about. Mardi Gras is about,
it s an art form...We re making the universe one little
drop better by doing this crazy, silly, whimsical thing
For Tyrone Casby it was the sound of the drums
that lured him in. Casby is the big chief of the Mohawk
Hunters, a Mardi Gras Indian tribe in New Orleans.
As a young boy, he remembers sneaking off to watch
and listen to his brother practice the drums with his
tribe. In 1967 he made his first suit and in 1980 he
became the chief of the Mohawk Hunters, the only
New Orleans preps
for Mardi Gras
tribe on the Mississippi River city s west bank.
Casby said the Indian outfits are, in part, a tribute
to the Native Americans who would hide runaway
slaves. But the drumbeats, singing and chanting are
also an expression of the African culture from which
they came. At the beginning, the outfits were made
out of whatever people could find, and were burned
after Mardi Gras, said Casby. But over time, they
have evolved into elaborate works of art that take
months to complete and are often preserved for pos-
Come Fat Tuesday morning, the tribe will con-
gregate at one spot in their outfits, and commence
the day by singing Indian Red, a prayer asking God
to guide them. Then they travel through the com-
munity, chanting and singing, and stopping at various
bars, restaurants or houses for food and drink.
"For me it s the drumbeats. And it still is. When
I hear a certain drumbeat of music I m ready to start
sewing," Casby said.
It started innocently enough. Chanel Lafargue s
husband, a member of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure
Club, asked her to decorate his coconuts, the signature
throw that the group gives away during their parade.
Fast forward many years later and Lafargue is now
surrounded in the small workroom above her family s
produce shop with hundreds of bags of coconuts and
glitter---lots of glitter.
Continues on Page A26
Glitter, feathers, paint...
Cari Rhoton, a lieutenant in an all-female Mardi Gras parade group known as the
Krewe of Muses, creates the group's signature shoes from her garage in Kenner,
Louisana. Over 1,000 members of the organisation ride floats and pass out hand
decorated shoes and other trinkets during Mardi Gras. AP PHOTO
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