In a backyard on Tupelo Street, in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Ronald W. Lewis has assembled a museum to the various worlds he inhabits. Built in 2003, and rebuilt after Katrina, the House of Dance and Feathers represents many New Orleans societies: Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, Bone Gangs, and Parade Krewes. More than just a catalogue of the artifacts in the museum, this full-color book is a detailed map of these worlds as experienced by Ronald W. Lewis. Through stories and conversation, we come to know the wide network of people who create and nurture performance traditions in the city. The House of Dance and Feathers is a unique space, showcasing communities who come together to sew and sing, to vaunt and dance, and to reconstruct the city. Like the cultures represented, the museum mixes the magical and the mundane, and makes explicit the connections between New Orleans, the African diaspora, Native America, and our shared future.
As well as being House of Dance & Feathers director and curator, Ronald W. Lewis is president of the Big Nine Social Aid and Pleasure Club, former Council Chief of the Choctaw Hunters, 2008 King of Krewe de Vieux, a lifelong resident of the Lower Ninth Ward, survivor of two devastating hurricanes, Betsy in 1965 and Katrina in 2005, and a central character in Dan Baum’s bestseller Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death and Life in New Orleans.
Rachel Breunlin is co-director of the Neighborhood Story Project. She is currently the ethnographer-in-residence in the Anthropology Department at the University of New Orleans where she teaches courses on public culture and collaborative ethnography.