Carnival season is upon us, and I thought this was a good opportunity to discuss some of the more intriguing aspects of Carnival culture with some of its most notable figures. Because that’s a lot of ground to cover, I hope to dedicate the next two shows on this subject. That starts off with today’s guests. Joining us:
Dr. Kim Vaz-Deville, associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at Xavier University and author of the 2013 book, “The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the Mardi Gras Tradition.”
Virginia Saussy, marketing consultant and charter member of the Krewe of Muses, whose landmark debut in the early 2000s helped spark a massive influx of women participating in Carnival on a more formalized structure.
Wayne Philips, Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum. Wayne’s here to discuss an upcoming exhibit at the Presbytere celebrating women’s Carnival krewes (and that’s just this week!). So you can call today’s show our “Estrogen Fueled Carnival Episode.”
SEGMENT ONE: KIM VAZ DEVILLE, AUTHOR, “THE BABY DOLLS”
I was really excited to welcome our first guest. Kim Vaz-Deville, Ph.D. is professor of education and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her book, The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2013 and was the basis for a major installation, “They Call Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition” at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere unit in 2013. It is the 2016 selection of the Young Leadership Council of New Orleans’ One Book One New Orleans. Vaz-Deville guest-curated with Ron Bechet, Department Head and Victor H. Labat Endowed Professor of Art Painting, Drawing, and Community Art at Xavier University of Louisiana, an art exhibit titled “Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls” which showed work about and inspired by the tradition in Spring, 2015 at the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art in New Orleans. Normally photographed on the streets of New Orleans during the ritual times of Mardi Gras, St. Joseph’s night and Super Sunday, photographer Phillip Colwart invited maskers to take stage portraits. Vaz-Deville curated these in a photography exhibit, “Philip Colwart’s Studio Portraits of the Baby Dolls of New Orleans”, on view 2015-2016 at the Shreve Memorial Public Library, in Shreveport, LA.
SEGMENT TWO: VIRGINIA SAUSSY, KREWE OF MUSES
Virginia Saussy has been a part of one of the most fascinating developments in Carnival culture in the past two decades. The emergence of the Krewe of Muses on the parade routes back in 2001 signaled the beginning of a massive influx of women into more formalized Carnival activity even though the first female Carnival krewe rolled 100 years ago. (More on that later in the show.) We now have Muses, and Nyx, and the predominantly African-American krewe Femme Fatale, and of course myriad marching and dancing troupes as we previously discussed. Virginia Saussy, a marketing consultant who’s an original member of the krewe, is here today to talk about how Muses helped alter the Carnival scene, and what we might expect from female krewes.
SEGMENT THREE: WAYNE PHILLIPS, LOUISIANA STATE MUSEUM
Finally, welcomed Wayne Phillips, who has served as the Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum since 1998. Wayne is responsible for a collection of over 30,000 artifacts, including historic and contemporary clothing, accessories, and textiles of all kinds, as well as an encyclopedic collection of artifacts documenting all aspects of Louisiana Carnival celebrations statewide. Wayne has made strides in expanding the State Museum’s holdings documenting the LGBTQ community in Louisiana, with particular interest in gay Carnival krewes. In 2014, Wayne served on the Steering Committee that founded the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, and he serves on the board of directors for the organization today. For this segment, Wayne discussed an upcoming exhibition at the Presbytere focusing on women and Carnival, tied to the 100th anniversary of the Krewe of Iris.
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Thanks again for joining us. I want to remind everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going. Happy Carnival, y’all.