Now is one of the richest seasons for the gallery in that one of our most prized categories, the used ceremonial mask, has been replenished thanks to the recent arrival of masks purchased from the recently held ceremonies in the Brunka villages. We are excited to share about the mighty jaguar animal but let me first preface with a little background.
One of the exciting bonuses to the gallery is that for a few weeks after the ceremonies, we unexpectedly get masks that are late comers to our collection, and somehow, just coming our way unsolicited, they seem like such a stroke of good fortune; it is almost as if the artist is not sure whether he really wants to part with his creation, but then realizes his art is how he earns his living and he is well equipped to make more in the future – and we all benefit!
To give you an example, German Morales, one of the finest Brunka artists, arrived in the gallery as expected with the collection of his latest ecological-cultural masks that we had been anticipating. The mask I was not expecting was presented to me out of the blue, an amazing jaguar in full “battle roar” posture. The image that flew through my mind was that of a backdraft – the raw power of this mask just about blew me away! Click to view the two photos of this extraordinary jaguar mask, but let me assure you the images don’t come close to the potent animal magnetism captured in this mask.
Invoking the jaguar animal, actually any member of the feline family, in the vernacular of the mask is to address the supreme deity in the animism of the Brunka forefathers. Just perusing through our mask collections will attest to that. Most frequently the presentation of this animal is that of a noble, wise and protective being. German’s jaguar mask, however, is startlingly enraged and wrathful; it skillfully sums up the vehement indignation that the native people felt at the abuse by the conquerors. Moreover, it encompasses everything they felt and the power they wished they could have projected. Truly this is one of the most expressive masks that have come into the gallery.
Another of Brunka’s great artists is Melvin Gonzalez who leans heavily on his tribal legends and mythology, as well as the artistic attributes of his ancestral people, the Diquis, whose renowned gold work and enigmatic stone spheres inform much of Melvin’s art. The loving and protective embrace of the jaguar can be seen in his beautifully moving mask, where his tribe is seen as a human face with a forest overlay above which is the ever-watchful jaguar guardian.
No one who sees this mask fails to remark on the remarkable intensity of the deep-set eyes of the feline, it is indeed a spiritual statement. Mask-making is not Melvin’s only forte – and, incidentally, he is one of the few mask artists who both sculpts and paints his own masks.
He is also a remarkable two-dimensional artist creating canvases that bring to life the spiritual message that Melvin is expressing. For example, in his panther-dominated painting, it is only upon closer inspection that the mystical presence of the Diquis stone spheres can be seen in every aspect of the painting, from the head of the panther, to its cheeks, eyes and claws; all bespeak the perfect symmetry of the enigmatic spheres. In yet another canvas, the panther of righteousness is seen through the shape-shifting shaman as he delivers justice to the breaker of tribal laws.
Worthy of mention is the rising awareness in these gifted Brunka artists of their role in being the spokespeople for their rich ancestral canon. Keep informed of this artistic evolution by subscribing to our RSS feed or our Namu Newsletter and you will not be disappointed.
In the meantime, I’d be curious to know which of the jaguar animal masks or artworks found throughout our website speaks to you? Please leave your comment below and share, if you will. Thanks for your support of indigenous arts.