Big Chief Demond Melancon | Artists’ Chronicles 2020

Demond Melancon (b. 1978, New Orleans, LA) 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. His complex and multidimensional portrayals draw inspiration from 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.

When Demond was 14 years old, he had the opportunity to learn from several influential elder Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs. They not only taught him how to sew and bead intricate suits, but also about the history and traditions of the Black Masking Culture of New Orleans, which began over 200 years ago. Prior to the elders declaring Demond would become a Big Chief in 2012, he had earned the title of Spy Boy of the Nation, a term of respect among peers in his community for being the fiercest Spyboy of them all. Today Demond Melancon is Big Chief of the Young Seminole Hunters based in the New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. A Big Chief’s prominence is often not only measured by the beauty and intricacy of his suits, but also by his command and presence within the community.