Darla Montgomery takes us behind the scenes of Louisiana’s creole hidden history

Louisiana is known for its rich culture.

Here in Acadiana, Creoles and Cajuns alike know the importance of preserving their history.

We recently stumbled upon some creole archives that are stored away in boxes, museums and the homes of curators.  We’ve also learned, there’s a movement to find a permanent home for the priceless history.

Stored neatly away in a climate controlled environment are some priceless works of art by great local artists like the late Donald Aldox Alexander, a Lafayette native well-known for his music and artistry.

Alexander captured many creole notables and zydeco musicians – some who have passed away.

“If that history is not on display for our young folks to learn about the likes of BooZoo Chavis or Paul Thibeaux, then you lose a huge part of who you are.”

Creole culture advocate Dustin Cravins tells us the entire collection is probably valued at or over $1.2 million but he says the historic significance is priceless.

The paintings are not the only items, there are archives and boxes of officials documents, records and pictures as well as artifacts currently being stored in houses and buildings throughout the area.

Their locations are being kept secret — we can’t even say where they are because of their value to the community, and the future.

And finding a home for it all has become a priority for creole preservationists.

“We’re just hoping we can find a home for the people of our city to see the wonderful that have happened in the creole culture.”

State Representative Vincent Pierre is among many who want to see the priceless history on display.

“There were recent talks about the exhibit being housed here at the african american museum in St. Martinville – but the flood of August of 2016 put those plans on hold.”

“Water came and it postponed everything that we wanted to do with St. Martinville, but we’re still working on finding a home.”

Melvin Caesar of Creole Inc, a non-profit organization that was formed in 1987 to preserve and promote the creole culture in southwest Louisiana, says finding a home for the exhibit has been a passion..

“My ultimate dream is to have a place, a creole home that people can come and visit and see our culture and have our story told by us and not other people.”

Like Caesar, Cravins says this exhibit needs a permanent home because the creole culture has been and continues to be such an important part of Louisiana’s rich history and cultural landscape.

“Finding a home for this art work is vital to not only the creoles throughout southwest Louisiana, but to our greater community as well, because our creole history is our Louisiana history.”

 

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