Black trail-riding clubs have their roots in Creole culture which formed in South Louisiana in the eighteenth century. Today trail rides are an opportunity for generations of people to gather, celebrate, and ride horseback. The riders form a distinctive yet little-known subculture in Southwest Louisiana, one that exists in stark contrast to most depictions of cowboys and serves as a reminder that Black equestrian culture stems from a time when the Louisiana Territory was in fact the American West.
These photographs by Jeremiah Ariaz on view at Blue Sky Gallery share an important aspect of Louisiana’s cultural heritage and assert a counternarrative to the limited depictions of Black life in popular culture. Ariaz’s project began around the fiftieth anniversary of many of the achievements of the civil rights era, as well as in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, when violence and indifference to the value of young Black lives was brought to the national spotlight in incidents across the country, from Ferguson, MO to Baton Rouge, following the tragic death of Alton Sterling in 2016. In the context of this national backdrop, the photographs depict joy, pride, and familial intimacy, particularly between fathers and sons, who are taught to care for and ride horses from an early age. Louisiana Trail Riders reflects contemporary Creole culture and the celebratory spirit of the rides while sharing one of the many histories in the American story that has largely remained untold.
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