Creating African Mardi Gras masks

The creator of the Krewe of Harambee Masks tells us a little about the tradition and how to make your own.

The Krewe of Harambee has beautiful African Mardi Gras masks that they throw at there parade that is unique in design. We spoke with resident artist, Debra Bradley, and she explains to us how creating a Krewe of Harambee mask came to be and the history behind it. She also is the creator of the masks and taught the members of the Krewe how to make the masks that they have now.Krewe of Harambee parade

Back in 2010, some of the members of Harambee wanted to come up with special masks to brand the name Harambee which means “Coming Together” in Swahili. Many members were making masks and throws  relating to Krewes in New Orleans like coconuts, high heel shoes, and purses. Debra is an avid collector of African art and was working on ideas for throws and decided to make throws and masks that were African influence.

In African culture, they use masks for any kind of celebration which includes a birth of a child, coming of age, the approaching of a harvest, and when death occurs. They use many geometric design ideas from Africa like the ripples in the ocean, animals prints like zebras, and palm trees. In addition, including bright colors to those different designs makes the masks pop.

In the video, Bradley describes how they use papier-mache (French origin) which is an already made material consisting of paper pieces and a base paint to start the African Mardi Gras masks. There are several different glues, paints, and additional material you can use to make a mask. Glues you can use are mod podge or regular Elmer’s glue. Paints you can use are acrylic and puff paint. Materials or fabrics you can use are beads, feathers, yarn and straw. These materials and fabrics are most commonly used by the Krewe of Harambee to keep true to their African theme. Discover more about the Krewe of Harambee on their website.


To learn more and see other Mardi-Gras content visit here.