Events & exhibitions
event • Fellows' Presentation

The Art of Resistance: Sacred Visual Creations of New Orleans' African American Mardi Gras Maskers

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2024
    12 PM ET
  • Online on Zoom
Portrait of Kim Vaz-Deville
Photo by Kevin Grady/Harvard Radcliffe Institute

A presentation from 2023–2024 Lillian Gollay Knafel Fellow Kim Vaz-Deville

Kim Vaz-Deville is a professor of education at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her work in New Orleans focuses on the lives of African Americans from the early 20th century to the present, explicitly on their material and intangible culture. Her book The “Baby Dolls”: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition (LSU Press, 2013) was the 2016 selection for the One Book One New Orleans campaign for literacy and community.

At Radcliffe, Vaz-Deville is writing “The Art of Resistance.” On Mardi Gras, African American maskers adorn themselves with hand-sewn regalia showcasing themes of slavery, segregation, strategies of resistance, and the COVID crisis. Over the past 60 years, with controversy, some began to characterize their practices as having an overt spiritual dimension. Her book draws on a decade of ethnographic and participant observation and chronicles these expansions to traditional Black masking subject matter designed to produce awareness among revelers of their community’s African and Afro-Caribbean heritage and shared global struggles.

Event Video

Watch video of fellow presentation by Kim Vaz-Deville

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