In the Making: Demond Melancon

February 3, 2022


In the Making

“I put everything into finishing these suits—all my money, and all my soul. You’re not stopping me if I have to pay the light bill, I’m still gonna sew this suit.”

On Thursday, February 3, we held a conversation with Demond Melancon, Big Chief of the Young Seminole Hunters. For the past 30 years, Demond has been an integral part of the Black Masking Culture of New Orleans. This conversation gives an in-depth look into Demon’s journey, practice, process, and materials.

Each year for Mardi Gras, Demond creates immense, intricately hand-beaded suits made up of elaborate patches depicting significant or untold Black and Native American stories. He works over 12 hours a day with microbeads and rhinestones, creating these sculptural body suits for ceremonial fights on Mardi Gras, St. Joseph’s Day, and Super Sunday.

Demond learned the craft of beading at a young age. As a teenager, he began studying with the Seminole Hunters tribe, working his way up through the ranks of ceremonial positions: Spy Boy to Wildman to Second Chief. In 2013, he became Big Chief of the Young Seminole Hunters, and continues to mentor others in his craft.

His work has been exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Art Miami, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art in Brooklyn, the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans, and currently at The Quin House in Boston.

Learn more about the topics mentioned during the conversation including Big Chief Allison “Tootie” Montana, photographer Christopher Porché West, the book “The Life and Legend of Bras-Coupé” with Demond’s suit on the cover, the Backstreet Cultural Museum, and

“In the Making” is a public programs series where we connect with a range of new voices, fields, and perspectives. Learn more and view a full list of events on the series homepage here.

With thanks to our underwriters

BOND, Eaton Vance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, First Republic Bank, Inland Underwriters Insurance Company, Firestone & Parson Inc., Sequoia Custom Builders, Inc., F.H. Perry Builder