Black Masking Culture


Black Masking Culture was an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, showcasing the Mardi Gras Indian suits of contemporary artist and educator Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters, for the first time outside the United States.


Black Masking Culture, V&A. Photo: Ed Reeve

Whilst working with Demond at Material Institute in New Orleans, Assemble approached the V&A suggesting an exhibition of the artist's incredible works of craftsmanship.

Demond is an artist who combines the New Orleans tradition of Black Masking with a global approach to contemporary art. His suits are composed of intricately hand-sewn beadwork, illustrating actual and imagined events from African and American history. We collaborated with Meneesha Kellay at the V&A, whose idea of positioning the suits in the Tapestries Gallery created an amazing cross cultural dynamic; Demond's suits sat in the gallery among rare tapestries from 1425, depicting hunting scenes of boars, bears, swans, otters, deer and falconry.


Black Masking Culture, V&A. Photo: Ed Reeve


In Demond's studio, packing suits to ship to the UK. Photo: Duval Timothy

We measured the suits, with the help of Demond's manager David Favret.

Assemble also designed and made simple, but robust solid oak stands for the suits, which were influenced by the displays of Samurai armour.

Building the suit stands at Assemble's workshop

'Ethiopia' by Demond Melancon. Photo: Ed Reeve

'Bras-Coupé' by Demond Melancon. Photo: Ed Reeve


Photo: Duval Timothy