West Baton Rouge Museum Director Angelique Bergeron and Exhibit Curator Kathe Hambrick describe themselves as “steeped in Creole.” It was only appropriate then that the Rum Revelry gala to celebrate the opening of the Creoles du Monde exhibit was well-steeped in Creole, too.
The masquerade gala Thursday night featured a live Brazilian Carnival and folk arts experience, tignon salon, handmade cigar demonstrations, rum tastings made from Louisiana sugar cane, and authentic Creole food.
As Creoles and museum professionals, Hambrick and Bergeron have experienced countless Creole exhibits. This exhibit offers visitors a new and unique perspective on Creole culture worldwide, not just close to home.
“When you think of Creole, think of culture, not color,” Hambrick said.
The Rum Revelry gala celebrated all things Creole and focused on the agricultural aspects of Creole culture which are centered around sugarcane, rice, coffee, and tobacco.
Revelers sported tignons styled by Dianne Honorè, who travels to teach “anything and everything about Louisiana culture.”
Revelers also enjoyed hand-rolled cigars and demonstrations by the Cigar Factory New Orleans, sipped on spiced rum samples from Cane Land Distillery, tasted authentic Creole food cooked by Rice N Gravy food truck, and were wowed by Casa Samba’s performance.
At the center of the evening’s festivities was the Creoles du Monde exhibit. It is a breathtaking display of artifacts, textiles,
portraits, furnishings, and rare paintings that focus on language, customs, agriculture, history, politics, and commerce related to Creole culture.
For many years, Creole culture, particularly language, was seen as second-class. For Hambrick and Bergeron, it is anything but second class, it is something to celebrate. Bergeron and Hambrick talk to each other and their coworkers in Cajun French, something they all consider a unique treat.
Bergeron learned to speak French as a child because it was the only way to hear all of the good stories her grandpa told, she said. Hambrick’s grandmother spoke Creole French, but her grandfather wouldn’t let the children learn it because he didn’t understand it.
The Creole language has been influenced by Old French, Africa and Native American languages and culture.
“It is the original melting pot and that’s what we celebrate so much,” Hambrick said.
The celebration of Creole culture continues Thursday, Feb. 8 at the Manship Theater, which will host a screening of Black Orpheus at 7 p.m. The 1959 Brazil film is an adaptation of the Greek legend of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth set during Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.
The Creoles du Monde exhibit continues through Sunday, Feb 25.