DEMOND MELANCON is a multidisciplinary contemporary artist and performer with extensive roots in the Black Masking Culture of New Orleans. With a career spanning almost three decades, Melancon is well-known for his meticulous hand-sewn beadwork used to create massive Mardi Gras Indian suits which are composed of intricately beaded patches depicting actual and imagined events from African and American history. Due to their large size and Demond's use of smaller beads his suits generally take over 4,000 hours of sewing and 1 million glass beads.
His complex and multidimensional portrayals are inspried by indigenous people in America, enslaved Africans, and inspirational leaders from history. His work draws from a broad variety of stylistic influences, features imagery rich with symbolism and meaning, addresses stereotypical representations of black people, and tells powerful stories from his experience of the African diaspora.
Melancon was born in 1978 and grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. He was initially taught by a prolific Mardi Gras Indian elder named Big Chief Ferdinand Bigard. Melancon went on to study under Nathanial Williams in connection with a 1993 Louisiana Folklife Apprenticeship Grant. Melancon joined the Seminole Hunters and masked as a Spy Boy for over 15 years under Big Chief Keitoe Jones.
In 2012 the elders of the Mardi Gras Indian community declared that Melancon would then be known as Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters, his very own tribe based in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The role of the Big Chief is to command and lead the tribe during practices throughout the year and in ceremonial battles on Mardi Gras Morning. A Big Chief’s prestige is often not only measured by the
beauty and intricacy of his suits, but also by his command and presence within the community.
To see more of Demond's amazing work: