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Masks and Mayhem

A new exhibit in St. Landry Parish depicts the Courir de Mardi Gras.

“A day like this … you go out into the countryside, and you hear that haunting melody. And you see ’em. And it’s an atmosphere that prevails. You can’t quite describe it. You can’t quite … It’s mystery, a little bit of fear, that old time can’t-wait-till-Christmas-morning type thing. It’s really … it’s something to partake in because it’s something you never forget.”

– Seamstress Georgie Manuel in a 1991 interview with Folklife in Louisiana

In South Louisiana’s St. Landry Parish, Mardi Gras has its own set of traditions. Sure, there are parades, but only after participants in colorful, homemade costumes have finished their courir. A French word meaning “run,” the courir involves going from house to house begging for ingredients for a communal gumbo.

The photograph above depicts the masked mayhem that ensues and is part of a new exhibit by Ohio native and Lafayette resident Herb Roe. The artist worked as an apprentice to Louisiana mural artist Robert Dafford, which explains his lifelike images that could almost be mistaken for photographs.

On display at the St. Landry Parish Visitor Information Center, Roe’s 20 20 oil paintings and graphite drawings show the costumes, including the pointed hats and screen masks, music and revelry of rural Mardi Gras runs. A traditional Mardi Gras costume, made by famed mask makers and sewers Georgia and Allen Manuel of Eunice, is also on display. The exhibit is free and will be up through March 17.

St. Landry Parish’s Mardi Gras activities start February 17 with a street dance in Eunice and run through Mardi Gras day, when the courir leaves from Eunice at 8 a.m.

To learn more about the Courir de Mardi Gras, see our article from last year.


Flannery O'Conn
Scenes From Mardi Gr