As I mentioned in my previous post, my background is in Landscape Architecture. I graduated with my BLA from LSU, which just so happens to be one of the best undergraduate programs in the country according to Design Intelligence. I didn't know much about the field of landscape architecture when I signed up for classes after freshman orientation, but I knew I wanted to be somewhere within the College of Art and Design. It turned out to be a perfect fit as I learned way more than just plants. One of the many reasons why the LSU Landscape Architecture program is so badass (for lack of a better term) is due to the emphasis on travel, learning and experiencing other cultures to better inform landscape design (which is more than just plants).
So one of the perks of being a College of Art and Design graduate, I recieve a biannual...maybe quarterly...I don't know...who really keeps up with all their mail these days...copy of the 2015 Winter Quad Magazine. As I was going through it, I found the article Healing Haiti and was really impressed with the relationship growing between LSU and Haiti through the work of Professor Austin Allen (Landscape Arch.) and numerous other professors from differing disciplines. Many people might not be aware of the large Haitian population here in Louisiana and the strong cultural influence Haiti has had on Southern Louisiana, particularly New Orleans.
My boyfriend, who prefers to remain anonymous and will therefore be referred to as the boyfriend, was fortunate enough to go on one of Prof. Allen's first trips to Jacmel, Haiti where they witnessed first hand the astonishing similarities between the built environment in Jacmel and the New Orlean's French Quarter.
Additionally, New Orleans and Jacmel share the common thread that both cities are recovering from catastrophic natural disasters, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in New Orleans in 2005 and the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that Haiti experienced in 2010. Conditions in Haiti have not improved as quickly as we have seen in New Orleans; however, the spirit and social resiliency is palpable in both cities. The Quad Magazine article mentioned the work being conducted by LSU Haitian Task Force committee member Dr. Joyce Jackson, professor in cultural anthropology and African and African American Studies. Dr. Jackson's research is focused on the similarities between New Orleans' Mardi Gras and Jacmel's Carnival. At first this research might seem trivial when considering post-disaster recovery, but anyone that was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras post-Katrina understands how much the celebration means to the city. Both Mardi Gras and Carnival are street rituals that proclaim "the need and desire to celebrate life while expressing the complexities of politics and society in one large ceremonial" (Quad Magazine).
I hope to be able to follow along as the Task Force and Dr. Jackson continue their research in both locations to better understand "the viability of theatrical ritual performance and representation in mask and music and the operation of street ritual as a social weapon and tool of resistance and tranformation" (Quad Magazine). That last part...social weapon and tool of resistance and transformation...thats really exciting to me, to think of Mardi Gras and Carnival as not only amazing festivals but as a means for recovery and social resillience. There is something really special about New Orleans during Mardi Gras and we owe a lot of that to Haiti.
A quick something search led me to this book, that just in the abstract blows my mind with excitement. Ordering it...now. Short history lesson (in case you all don't care to click on the link): the Haitian Revolution of 1791 resulted in major immigration of Haitians to New Orleans that ultimately influenced southern architecture, agriculture, religion, arts, medicine, politics and the American Slavery emancipation debate. For those that weren't aware, voodoo was also introduced to New Orleans through Haitian immigrants, so I'm really enjoying this little history lesson as I prepare for Diva Day.
Speaking of which...here is the current state of my costume. I'm going to strive for my next post to show more of our process as we build these (bullet proof) beauties....I'm convinced their bulletproof but the boyfriend says he doubts it. SO MUCH HOT GLUE!
I'm still figuring out how to make the ribs look more like ribs that are peeking out from behind my ripped/torn/burned antebellum dress. I'm also going to incorporate more wood and natural elements because my character is ....wait for it....Madame Cypress Bones....or Madame Everwaiting Evangeline Cypress....haven't worked out all the kinks in my story yet so...
we shall see...