Haibun : Uber drivers, clarinets and Eric Waters
leaving, staying, rebuilding
clarinets and krewes
senryu & photo by © 2020 M. LaFreniere, all rights reserved.
Following Lori Kay through neighborhoods searching for the Joan Mitchell Foundation, ruminating on the generosity of Uber drivers. Curious about what happened during Hurricane Katrina, Lori Kay queried the drivers about their experiences. I wanted to know too but would’ve been too shy to ask.
Hurricane Katrina experiences
One uber driver hearing of the upcoming storm, took time off from work and trundled his family off to relatives in another state, the car packed with photos and clothes. He and his wife had the forethought to move some of their furniture and things upstairs. Good thing because they came back several days later to a soaked first floor. A young woman, just a teen back then, remembers being swept up into the Superdome fiasco, searching out her family and friends, remembering people sharing what little food and water they had while waiting for help to arrive, remembering looking for her grandfather who kept wandering away to go home, his Alzheimer enfolding his memories back into a safer time.
My friend Delia, a transplanted poet and artist from Berkeley eons ago, suddenly having an inexplicable urge a month before to go visiting friends out of state. She followed her intuition and wasn’t home to sit on the roof like another Uber driver. The driver’s family moved to the second floor when the waters filled the first. Then had to move to the roof when the waters flooded the second. As the water receded, their family went back down to survey the damages, with that feeling that at least they were alive and anything else could be dealt with. The resilience of the New Orleanians is truly remarkable.
Meeting Eric Waters
Lori Kay and I found the Joan Mitchell Foundation closed after a couple hours walk. Luckily just then Eric Waters arrived. A very open-hearted friendly artist, Waters was willing to share his studio with us. He had recently received an artist residency grant there and loved the program. Along with the use of a studio, every day the cooks served up excellent food if you wanted to eat dinner in and weekly the artists gathered and shared their work. Waters shared a gorgeous book “Solemn Sounds of Silence” of his photographs of Dr. White’s clarinets after the instruments were recovered from Hurricane Katrina’s waters. I was not able to find the book on Amazon or Ebay (sad!) but you can view the photographs here although you can’t read Kevin Sipp’s poem featured in the book (link is to Waters store where he sells limited number photographic series. You can also view his jazz and African American krewes series). The clarinet images are pretty amazing. The eloquence of his work makes it especially sad that Waters lost the majority of his oeuvre in 2005 to Katrina. Fingering the book’s photographs, I felt like I could touch the rough texture of the brilliant turquoise rusted clarinets. Their ruined beauty sang to me as I flipped the pages.
During his residency, Waters is currently working on documenting the costumes of the New Orleans krewes. In the article, Longtime Jazz Fest photographers capture essence of New Orleans music (The Advocate, Mary 4, 2014), Kay Reckdahl wrote “…Waters, an unassuming guy from the 7th Ward, greets everyone and has become both the personal friend and go-to photographer of many Indians, artists, and social aid and pleasure club members.” She quotes official Jazz Fest photographer Girard Mouton III saying. “Eric has an intimacy with the culture that I must admit I don’t have.”
The Mardi Gras Indian krewe unlike other krewes is not named after Greek/Roman myths but after imaginary Indian tribes as local African Americans honor the history of Native Americans accepting escaping slaves into their community. The elaborate costume of this krewe is handmade special every year and unique to the year. Once the year is over, that costume is not worn again.
Freedom’s Dance: Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans by Karen Celestan (author), Eric Waters (photographer). (Note: I’m an Amazon affiliate, see disclosure in sidebar or at the bottom)
|Originally the costumes were discarded but now many are preserved in museums and collections. Waters has been documenting the krewes for many years. You can see his photographs in Freedom’s Dance: Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans. While his photographs of the clarinets remembers Hurricane Katrina, his photographs of the krewes pay tribute to the history, celebrations and sheer joie de vivre of the people who live in New Orleans.|
If you get a chance, try to make the Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday on the Sunday closest to St Joseph’s Day. This year that will be March 19, 2020 to see the various Mardi Gras Indian krewes perform dances and chants in a friendly competition to outshine each other in costume and performance. Check out the New Orleans website under the “Things to Do” tab for events happening in New Orleans. If you click on “Festivals” and go about halfway down, there is a calendar of upcoming festivals.
You can use the Amazon search bar to search for anything as I did with “New Orleans street art book”. I didn’t get any books on street art or murals today but interestingly New Orleans restaurant, jazz and architecture books did pop up. Results will vary.
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