Two years after the ruin of Hurricane Katrina, homes are coming back around. Even with reconstruction and lots of volunteer aid, something seemed missing among the new walls. The residents have seen nothing but the grey of collapsed homes and the brown of the flood waters and mud. For a city recognized for its abundance of life, the dreariness seemed unshakable.
That is -- until they brought in colour.
Volunteer workers, contractors and residents alike are shedding their greys for revitalizing vibrance in colors like Morning Breeze, Golden Wheat, Tangerine, and Cinnamon Brown. Inside and out, the vivid colors that seemed abundant before the hurricane cover every wall once more, even closets and ceiling fans. One resident wants everything in her kitchen to be red -- the refrigerator, the counter tops, the seating, and yes, the sink.
What they're doing isn't just out of celebration or for the sake of doing. A New York Times article suggests that brighter colors mean brighter personalities, and it seems to fit in the case of our environments having a strong effect on us. The stimulus from brighter, bold colors causes our bodies and brains to react, chemically making us happier as we're exposed to them. Of course, over-stimulus can have adverse effects, but after being buried in muddy hues, radiant reds, searing yellows, and deep blues seem to be causing no harm, no foul.
Like the light in Pandora's Box, these colorful kitchens, closets, and front porches may just be the beacon of hope for ushering back in that effervescent spirit that drew so many.
A showcase of that spirit is Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday",) the day before Lent and the last day of the Carnival season. The day is marked by colorful costumes, masquerading, and decadent festivities. The colour schemes are anything and everything bright and vibrant. The floats in the parades and at events are often described as 'gaily colored.' The day draws hundred of thousands of tourists most often to the French Quarter, to Bourbon Street. Along with this festival, in which the local music is often featured, New Orleans' blues is even a bit happy-sounding. New Orleans blues is a combination of dixieland music and rhythms derived from Caribbean music, typically performed on piano or a horn instrument. The music is upbeat despite the blues-based content of many of the song choices.
The festival was put off a year because of the flooding, but then hosted again this year, although it was smaller than usual. Surfacing from the muddy flood waters demanded a lot of work and effort. New Orleans' recovery is finally coming about, and that old spirit for which the city is remembered is ushering in lightness, colour, and hope.
The old blues and jazz spirit of New Orleans brings colour, too. From the brass of the saxophones and trumpets to the wood of guitars painted or natural. Dixieland music started at the beginning of the twentieth century and spread to Chicago and New York City in the 1910s. Combining ragtime, brass band marches, and sending piano, guitar, double bass, drums, and banjo to set the rhythm, the colors were endless, instrumentally and musically. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has been held every year since 1970.
Hear from the people themselves in this NPR Broadcast.