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The Black Indians exhibition in the Quai Branly Museum, Paris


This post is available in  French or  English.

Affiche de l'exposition - The exhibition poster.
 Affiche de l'exposition - The exhibition poster. 

The Paris Quai Branly museum now presents the artistic and cultural creativity of the "Black Indians", African - American people in New Orleans.

This movement was born at the beginning of the 19th century in reaction to discrimination and at the time of the official New Orleans Carnival organized by the white community.

The African-Americans, Blacks implanted by force in New Orleans, organized their own Carnival while parading in Indian costumes to thank the Natives who suffered with them and helped them during the French, Spanish and American domination.

A remarkable journey into the history of the United States, following a geographical route from Europe to Africa and America, and also chronologically, from the beginnings of the European presence in Louisiana until today.

Costumes de carnaval - Carnival costumes - Jam Hall
Costumes de carnaval - Carnival costumes
Partition de Uncle Jasper's Jubilee, 1898 - Uncle Jasper's Jubilee sheet music, 1898. - Jam Hall
Partition de Uncle Jasper's Jubilee, 1898 - Uncle Jasper's Jubilee sheet music, 1898.
Luth Banza - Banza luth. - Jam Hall
Luth Banza - Banza luth.

The music practiced despite everything during these moments of suffering and displacement, was the basis of new sounds at the origins of jazz and blues.

In New Orleans, the Cité du Croissant was founded by the French in 1718 in one of the meanders of the Mississippi River. Congo Square was the only place where slaves were allowed to gather to exchange food but also dance to African music.

Harpa Baga - Baga harpa. - Jam Hall
Harpa Baga - Baga harpa.
Banjo Stewart, 1905 - Stewart banjo, 1905. - Jam Hall
Banjo Stewart, 1905 - Stewart banjo, 1905.

The drum was the instrument of choice used by slaves. Those of the Caribbean used a long-handled instrument with 4 strings mounted on a hollow half-calabash, covered with animal skin.

Imported from Africa, this sort of luth or primitive harp was called "akonting" in Sénégal or "gourd banjo", or "banza" in Haïti. they are the ancestors of the American banjo.

Three specimens can be seen at the Quai Branly museum: the harpa baga, the banza lute and a magnificent 1905 Stewart banjo made in Philadelphia and lent by our banjoist friend, Hervé Tuel.

Article rédigé par Philippe Boutet

The curator, Steve Bourget, was looking for a 5-string banjo from the turn of the century. The music museum of the Philharmonie de Paris does not have any, research was directed to luthiers, in particular the Casanova Gallery (formerly Lutherie Charles with Rosyne and François) in Paris.

Jérôme Casanova immediately thought of Hervé Tuel, a banjo enthusiast, who agreed to entrust this banjo more than a hundred years old from his collection to the Quai Branly museum.

For our great pleasure.

This exhibition is available until january 15th 2023.



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