Science and mythology intertwine in a festival that explores the vast issues surrounding the world’s water crisis — but after tackling hotly debated topics, the atmosphere takes an alluring twist at the Anba Dlo VII Halloween Festival this Saturday.
Festivalgoers will encounter mermaid and merman physic readers, interactive water-based art installations, acrobatic artists, burlesque performers, body painters, altars, live and silent auctions, a costume parade and a ceremony of Vodou (the spelling organizers prefer).
“It’s a whole new experience every 25 feet. It is such a wild, beautiful evening,” said Sallie Ann Glassman, Vodou priestess and organizer of Anba Dlo Halloween Festival.
Before the real festivities begin, the day starts off with a serious undertone.
Anba Dlo’s (Haitian for “Beneath the Waters”) third annual Water Symposium brings together experts in water management. From noon, facts, ideas, theories and solutions will be bouncing around at Café Istanbul in the New Orleans Healing Center. Three panels will discuss coastal restoration, costs and climate change and subsidence: what to do if scientists are right?
“Most of the world is desperately in need of fresh water, and we are in fear of being inundated with water,” Glassman said. “We talk about these issues with the best minds in water management and how to work with or against the river.”
As the symposium winds up, the evening takes a festive turn, celebrating the beauty and power of water.
“The real link between the party and the symposium is the 12 or so multimedia interactive art installations. People can really have a hands-on experience of what water means to us,” Glassman said.
With the use of lighting and special effects, the illusion of walking through a wall of water encapsulates festivalgoers from the moment they enter the Healing Center.
At midnight, Glassman leads a Vodou ceremony, calling on La Sirene, the spirit of the mermaid. After making offerings of apology, Glassman asks her to anoint all the people at the festival.
“There is a spirit in Vodou called La Sirene, which means mermaid in French. She is the depths of the ocean and she is also the deep waters of the psyche,” Glassman said. “We ask her to come every year, and we honor her with the sculpture of the mermaids because we want to make an apology to the water and heal the damage that we have done.”
Glassman says it is a wonderful exchange because they give La Sirene offerings, including a sculpture that is revealed at midnight. La Sirene comes to the ceremony through a procession trance and anoints everyone there.
This year’s theme is “L’Eau de Vie” (the water of life), which explores the idea of connecting with loved ones through water. With the loss of life around Hurricane Katrina, it’s apt for locals.
“This time of year is close to All Souls night, when the veil between the visible and the invisible worlds are pretty thin. The souls come back to visit with us and we can reach out to them. There are invisible waters of return,” Glassman said. “We all want to reach into these waters and reach our loved ones that have passed.”
The immersive atmosphere of the festival has festivalgoers exploring their relationship with water, while celebrating the artistic talent of New Orleans and bringing awareness to the St. Claude Avenue community.
All proceeds from the festival go to New Orleans Community Outreach to help subsidize people who otherwise couldn’t afford the services, products and programs at the New Orleans Healing Center.
“We have also formed partnership with Eden House which helps get women out of human trafficking, and with Covenant House which helps homeless youths ... just by coming you are really helping the world in a lot of different ways,” Glassman said.
The community of scientists and artists will walk away from the daylong festivities with new ideas, partnerships and awareness of how the greater New Orleans community can better prepare for changes that are happening now and coming.
“People keep saying it is going to take a major disaster for people to get the message — not that we haven’t had several,” Glassman said. “It would be a whole lot better for people to get the message through the festival and act on these issues.”
Where: Café Istanbul, 2372 St. Claude Ave.
When: Saturday, Oct. 18 from noon to 4 p.m.
Panels: Future, noon to 1:30 p.m.; state plans and bold ideas, 1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.; financing, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Halloween Costume Parade
Where: Starts at Mimi’s in the Marigny, winds through the Marigny and Frenchmen Street and finishes at St. Claude Ave. at the Healing Center.
When: Saturday, Oct., 18 at 6 p.m.
Anba Dlo Festival
Where: New Orleans Healing Center, 2372 St. Claude Ave.
When: Saturday, Oct. 18, from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Cost: $20 advance tickets or $25 at the door. VIP Lounge tickets are $45.