Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame Releases "Green Paper" Revealing Impact of Image Exploitation on Local Culture Bearers


Evidence Collected in Support the Hall of Fame's "You Get Paid, I Get Paid" Fair Use Campaign presented to community during Aug. 3 "Blue Linen Night," which is the first event of the 2015 Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame week.

New Orleans, LA – From Super Sundays to Jazz Fest to the Convention and Visitors Bureau website, the Mardi Gras Indians are a highly visible element in the culture of New Orleans that attracts nearly 10 million visitors and billions of dollars to the city each year. But how many of the Indians pictured in marketing materials or fine art galleries are compensated for the craftsmanship that makes these images so compelling and profitable?

On Monday, August 3, The Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame released its “green paper” to answer this question. It is styled after a traditional white paper but renamed because of its focus on the cultural economy. The paper draws from on policy research and first-person stories collected from Mardi Gras Indians and their relatives, to demonstrate the financial and emotional impact on those who have seen their images – including those of small children and deceased chiefs – sold in galleries and online without the subject’s permission or compensation.

“This cause is personal to me because my family has been taunted by photographers about how much they have sold my daddy’s image for, and they even tried to take photos at his funeral without permission,” states Cherice Harrison-Nelson, curator of the Hall of Fame, big queen of Guardians of the Flame Maroon Society, and the daughter of legendary Big Chief Donald Harrison. “But this is bigger than my family – the green paper provides evidence of how widespread this disregard for the artistic skill of Mardi Gras Indians has become. We will use it to further advance the ‘You Get Paid, I Get Paid’ campaign we launched during last year’s Blue Linen Night.”

The green paper was completed as part of a broad coalition that is advocating for greater equity in New Orleans cultural economy and tourism industry. Organized during Foundation for Louisiana’s 2014 Equity Caucus and funded by the foundation’s TOGETHER Initiative, this working group is developing a survey, app and other tools to help culture bearers gain more control over the economic aspects of their work.

Flozell Daniels, CEO and President of Foundation for Louisiana says “Our culture sets New Orleanians – and indeed, all Louisianans – apart as one of the most unique in the world. The foundation is committed to supporting efforts to increase the equitable distribution of revenue from this rich heritage to benefit those who are most directly responsible for creating and preserving it.”

Blue Linen Monday was held on August 3, 2015, between 6 – 7:30 pm at the Arts Council of New Orleans gallery space, 935 Gravier Street in New Orleans. A number of photographers, graphic artists and fine artists showcased and sold their specialized work featuring the Mardi Gras Indians. A percentage of any sales are to be shared with the photograph’s subject. Attendees feasted on red beans and rice in tribute to a long-standing cultural touchstone of New Orleans life.

For more information about the event, please contact Cherice Harrison-Nelson, 504.214.6630, [email protected] For more information about Foundation for Louisiana or the TOGETHER Initiative, please contact Deidre Gantt, 225.772.2369, [email protected]

Blue Linen Night 2015 photograph by rhr photo, shared courtesy of the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame

Published August 5, 2015