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arts and culture | katrina aftermath

Mardi Gras 2006: February 28

in the work of culture-changing, it is essential that we look at the symbols that arrise when power acts in it's most despotic. In the name of taking a seed and letting it grow in a clearing that the storm has made, rather then let the invasive Bush grow and spread. In the name of seizing some of the oldest images of resistance. I bring you a proposal. If you like it, please spread it.
For centuries there have been Carnaval celebrations all over the world.

It has been argued for many that these expressions (of Anarchy, of symbolic overthrow of power, of shifting genderrole, of the temporary embracing of the profane) where a way to "get it out of the system" the church looked the other way and it worked by stopping revolt.

It has been also argued that DURING TIMES OF GREAT CRISIS these annual expressions acted like seeds providing symbols and stories that helped to drive real change.

For example, the "uppity woman" archetype often portrayed by clown surved to continue oppression but also provided the nessisary inspiration to trigger, suddenly, a new understanding of the role of woman in society. The same is true of times like the Reformation: the images of topling the pope were suddenly filled with real meaning.

They allowed for a conversation about power to happen under the guise of sillyness and parody.

Carnaval is hardly expressed in the States except in the form of Mardi Gras in the city of New Orleans.

This seat of specical and parodied psudorebellion of control anarchy can also be an agent of change for our country and our world.

This is one of the most blanted examples of the route we are on:
-The change of climate
-The negilance and incompetance of the Bush administration
-The fragility of Oil
-The waste caused by the War
-The idiocy of Homeland Security
- and so on...

I PROPOSE that this Mardi Gras. February 28th 2006, we hold a nation-wide carnaval/mardi gras.

in solidarity with the people of New Orleans
in celebration of life and the topling of power
let fools dress as bush and be dunked in tanks
let the gods of climate fight with the gods of war
let there be music and costume and feast
let it rage

i BELIEVE that if there is enough energy put into this, it is a LEVERAGE POINT that will help give expression to the frustration, fatigue, anger, outrage, disbeleif, sorrow, this plague that the bush administration has brought to us. and that though giving expression, it will allow the wheels of fortune turn.
a quote 08.Dec.2005 00:29


from Lewis Hyde's amazing book "Trickster Makes This World"

"[W]here change is in order, dirt-work also has a role to play, for it simply isn't true that these rituals are always conservative. Dirt rituals may stabilize things for years on end, but when the order is in fundamental crisis these rituals can become the focal points for change, catalytic moments for dirt's revaluation and true structural shifts. Every so often Fat Tuesday does leak over into Lean Wednesday, and into the rest of the year as well. Regular dirt rituals are like nodes on a shoot of bamboo, repeating year after year to strengthen the growing stalk, but then, when conditions demand it, splitting open to produce new growth.
Historians have recently provided us with a number of specific cases that demonstrate this general model. It now seems clear, for example, that carnival's ritual debasing of the Pope played a key role in the Reformation in Germany. The ritual container broke, the pollution leaked out, and the Church itself was fundamentally altered. It seems clear also that play with gender roles has sometimes leapt the fences of ritual. The historian Natalie Zemon Davis has argued that the gender reversals of various early modern European festivals served to "undermine as well as reinforce" prevailing social structures. The carnival image of unruly women, normally the object of joking and ply, sometimes turned out "to sanction riot and political disobedience for both men and women in a society that allowed the lower orders few formal means of protest." Davis is well aware that letting carnival's "woman-on-top" have power during the holidays usually served to keep women on the bottom when the holidays were over, but once such an image exists it is hard to control, and this one sometimes also "promoted resistance," "kept open an alternative way of conceiving family structure," and served as "a resource for feminist reflection on women's capacities."

drunken mardi gras 08.Dec.2005 01:08

kirsten anderberg

Most street performers who are serious in the field make a migration to New Orleans for Mardi Gras as a right of passage. But when I did so, I was wholly disappointed. It was too much drunk energy for me. Not only was everyone smashed too much for my comfort on alcohol, and I do not drink so it is really icky to me, but on top of that, there is this insanity about plastic beads, nicknamed Greed Beads. I saw a man literally break a small girl's arm with his foot to stop her from getting greed beads he wanted that were thrown from a float in Mardi Gras. As a performer, I was given strands of greed beads constantly as tips, so I did not hurt people for mine. But knowing people are hurt yearly in a fight for greed beads made me embarassed to have or display them! Although I had a great time in New Orleans with other performers, the actual Mardi Gras time was not so fun. It was way crowded, it was drunken, it was violent. I had nightmares of being raped BY COPS for months after leaving there too as it was very very clear to me as a woman street performer that the police in New Orleans were very very corrupt. I love parades, I love street celebrations, but I hate drunken violence...I wish there was a Mardi Gras where being drunk was not a large part of the goal and where greed beads were not a central commodity.

Thanks 08.Dec.2005 09:54


Thanks for article. I agree. Let's organize!!

my point exactly 08.Dec.2005 13:52


you description is exactly what i'm talking about: fesitals of controlled chaos work to assert the power of CHURCH or STATE, but in times of crisis they also are the leverage points where change can happen.

N.O. is so messed up because it is one of the few expression of this kind happening in the country.

We can redirect the energy of this crisis, of the symbolic intensity of the N.O. situation and can use it as a vehicle for transformation.

right on 25.Feb.2006 17:00

Andrea crochetmaster@excite.com

I agree with you whole-heartedly. I was just discussing this situation with a friend. What better way to show our support for New Orleans and all victims of Katrina than to celebrate Mardi Gras with them? But I was searching for events happening in Portland and there are suprisingly few. My friend and I had to idea (far too late, unfortunately) to have a benefit in a public place for Mardi Gras. Anyone know of anything going on?