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In the Field

The Beat on the Street: Second Lines, Mardi Gras Indians, and the Photography of Gary Samson

February 11, 2014 | By Anne Coughlin, Marketing Director, New Hampshire Humanities Council

Escape the grey and white of the winter landscape into a world of color and celebration at the University of New Hampshire Museum in Dimond Library in Durham. The New Hampshire Humanities Council has awarded a grant to the University Museum for events related to an exhibition of the vivid photos by Gary Samson of the Mardi Gras Indians, musical culture, and traditions of New Orleans: "The Beat on the Street: Second Lines, Mardi Gras Indians, and the Photography of Gary Samson." The project includes a film showing and an event with the photographer.

The documentary film Bury the Hatchet will be shown on Wednesday, February 12 at 3 p.m. in Theatre One in the Memorial Union Building at UNH Durham. Folklorist Burt Feintuch will lead a post-screening discussion with Chief Alfred Doucette of the Flaming Arrows Mardi Gras Indian tribe. Chief Doucette, who is featured in the film, will share samples of his handmade feather and beadwork suits.

A reception with photographer Gary Samson, Chief Doucette and Burt Feintuch will be held on Wednesday, February 12 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the University Museum in Dimond Library.

New Orleans is known for its Mardi Gras “krewe” celebrations with floats, beads, music, and food during its annual world-renowned festivities. However, in African-American neighborhoods, away from the masses partying in the French Quarter, the Mardi Gras Indians have created parallel traditions. Gary Samson’s photography captures not only the Mardi Gras Indians in action, but the exuberance in the street inspired by the music and dancing of the second line parades. These rarely seen images of New Orleans highlight the cultural fragility of such traditions in the wake of Katrina and will expose viewers to a working class African-American tradition that is little understood, even by most residents of New Orleans.

Gary Samson is Chair of the Photography Department at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. His work as a filmmaker and photographer have taken him to locations around the globe. Samson’s photos are in the permanent collections of the Currier Museum of Art, the UNH Museum, the State of New Hampshire, the National Archives, and numerous private collections.

The University Museum will display Samson’s photos from Monday, February 10 through Friday, March 28. The exhibition will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays when the Library is open from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, contact Dale Valena at 603-862-1081 or dale.valena[at]unh[dot]edu.