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Histories, photographs of Mardi Gras Indians captured in new book 

Fire in the Hole: The Spirit Work of the Fi Yi Yi & the Mandingo Warriors is out on St. Joseph’s Day

Big Chief Victor Harris has been sewing suits and masking as a Mardi Gras Indian for more than five decades, most of that time as founder and leader of Fi Yi Yi. Fire in the Hole: The Spirit Work of the Fi Yi Yi & the Mandingo Warriors (UNO Press, Neighborhood Story Project) begins with the founding of the group, after a difficult break with Harris' former tribe, Yellow Pocahontas. The chapters string together interviews with Mardi Gras Indians, Sylvester Francis, founder of the Backstreet Cultural Museum, and many others from inside and outside Mardi Gras Indian culture. The book has more than 200 photos, including dozens of vibrant images of Indians marching on the streets or sewing suits, many of them by anthropologist Jeffrey David Ehrenreich. Neighborhood Story Project founder Rachel Breunlin edited the book, and interviews capture many scenes and the history of a few tribes through vivid, personal accounts. The book has an excellent collection of subjects recounting the tribes' oral histories, but the reader is plunged into the work without much context or introduction.

  The book's release is being celebrated with a parade starting where Fi Yi Yi was born, on the 1400 block of Annette Street where Harris lived, and proceeding through the 7th Ward to the Backstreet Cultural Museum (1116 Henriette Delille St.;, where Francis documents and collects artifacts relating to New Orleans African-American parading traditions, including Mardi Gras Indians, social aid and pleasure clubs, baby dolls and skull and bones gangs. The event takes place on St. Joseph's Night, when Indians parade in their neighborhoods. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the Backstreet Cultural Museum. The parade begins at 4 p.m. March 19 at 1400 Annette St.


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