MontanaMaster Mardi Gras Suitmaker
Darryl Montana is the Chief of the Yellow Pocahontas “Hunters” Black “masking” Indian Tribe. In the late 1800’s, the New Orleans indigenous Black Indian movement of “masking Indian” on Carnival Day began in the Montana family. Hailing from a prominent family of Black masking Indians and son of the Chief of Chiefs Allison “Big Chief Tootie” Montana, he uses sequins, beads, pearls, marabou, feathers and stones to create multi-dimensional Mardi Gras costumes for each year’s carnival in New Orleans. The techniques and use of materials have been passed down to him from his father. He began learning how to string beads at age six and made his first suit when he was eleven using a used vinyl raincoat as his canvas. His suits can take up to 5000 hours to complete and they are in response to themes like metamorphosis and evolution. He says the on Carnival day, “he is in full regalia representing a culture that unites the community around the tradition of masking and simply being the prettiest.” In addition to creating these massive pieces, Montana passes his techniques on to children and teaches them how to construct sculptural costumes. Montana’s work is in the public collections of the International Folk Art Museum and the Joan Mitchell Foundation and private collections of the late John Scott, Diego Cortez, Ron Bechet, and Mapo Kinnord-Payton, to name a few.
Portrait photo courtesy the artist.