The Ella Project proudly celebrates Big Queen Rukiya of the Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indian tribe for her enormous achievement in having her amazingly intricate and profound artwork selected for exhibition at the Musee du quai Branly in Paris. We were happy to work with Rukiya on the legal mechanisms required to ensure she secured a fair, equitable and favorable arrangement, which ultimately took her fabulous Indian suit from the streets of New Orleans to one of the world’s finest art institutions. As a result, Rukiya’s White Buffalo suit will be on display for art lovers around the world to observe and appreciate while getting a taste of some of what makes New Orleans so special.
The Mardi Gras Indians, or black masking Indians, are unique to New Orleans and one of America’s oldest, urban, indigenous cultures that continues to thrive today. We have worked intimately with many Mardi Gras Indians since our organization was founded in 2004. We have also had the privilege to represent the Mardi Gras Indian Council since day one of our legal clinics, going back 16 years now. We are honored to have served the Queens of the Nation and the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame, which awarded us a Golden Feather in 2016. In 2010, we worked with Mardi Gras Indians to secure recognition by the U.S. Copyright Office of the their elaborate suits as works of sculpture, which extended the rights afforded to these authors beyond photographs alone. Because their underlying work, their suits, are subject to copyright protection as works of sculpture, Mardi Gras Indians have greater recourse to protect and enforce their rights. Our Co-Founder Ashlye Keaton often says that working with Mardi Gras Indians continues to be the highlight of her professional life, and she credits the Indian community for continuing to inspire her to commit to public service. We are blessed with the good fortune to collaborate with creators like Rukiya to tell their own stories and to spread the joy of New Orleans culture across the globe. Cheers to Big Queen Rukiya for being an inspiration to us all!