Architect, Landscape Architect, Urban Designer, Land Use Planner, Environmental Observer

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

the art of the Mardi Gras Indians #2

Some chiefs have moved the design paradigm in new directions. One of those is 

Victor Harris

Big Chief of the Mandingo Warriors

Harris spent 18 years with the Yellow Pocahontas, always “running flag.” However because veteran Ray “Hatchet” Blazio, who Harris greatly admired, held the first flag position in the gang, he realized he could never be the number one flagboy. After a time, he began describing his own position as “flag of the nation.”

When he did this, he says, it marked the beginning of his stylistically African approach to design that continued when he started his own gang, commonly called simply Fi-Yi-Yi. “I was on that path,” the chief explains. “I was heading that way. I already changed some of my ways of masking {as a flagboy} by having a shield instead of a flag.”

A certain heartbreak still remains in Harris’ voice when he speaks of being “banished” from the Yellow Pocahontas in 1984. He won’t speak of the reason as he remains loyal to the gang – “I just love these people” – though one could speculate that his pain led him to perhaps greater things.

“Everything seemed hopeless to me — I had no tribe,” Harris remembers.” I was banned from the Yellow Pocahontas which was my community, my livelihood and everything else. And I loved masking Mardi Gras Indian. The only thing that I could do was to pray.”

“It was at night, I was all alone. I turned off every light in the house, the clock that was ticking, I stopped that from happening. I made sure the TV and the refrigerator were unplugged because I didn’t want to hear a humming sound. I just wanted to be alone with the spirit in the dark.

I woke up that next morning and I felt very good and I just started stretching and flexing my arms and started to say ‘Yi-Yi.’ Suddenly I stopped and then I said ‘Fi-Yi-Yi’ and the third time I screamed it ‘Fi-Yi-Yi.’ That was the first time the word was ever mentioned.

That’s when the spirit hit me.
That was my given spiritual cultural name and it represented Africa.”

Victor Harris - 50 years of dedicated Service
by Geraldine Wycoff
Louisiana Weekly
March 30,2015

Big Chief Harris has masked for 52 years - each year making a new suit from scratch. He wears a full face mask covered with shells, strings of beads and "stones".

here are some close-ups of his style of beadwork




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