These remarkable figures depicting local fauna are delightful creations marking an evolution in such traditional materials as the jícara fruit shell and balsa wood out of which these animal figures are created. This Costa Rican indigenous group, the Brunka, have been using since time immemorial, the dried jícara fruit shell – still relied on for containing certain liquids and food stuffs as in canteens, bowls, ladles, strainers, etc. These gourd-like utilitarian objects are then ingeniously combined with sculpted balsa wood heads and limbs which harken back to the stunning diablo masks still used in their venerable tribal event called the Danza de los Diablitos in which carved and adorned balsa wood masks are worn by the jugadores.
At Namu, we saw these two artists, Loli Fernández and Paco Lázaro Fernández over time, gradually perfect this art form from earlier prototypes whereby Loli’s engraved, traditional Brunka jícara canteens, that she has always carved, started to be used as material prima for three dimensional animal figures towards which she always seemed inclined to explore. Her natural sense of how these different local animal species, including this monkey figure, should look, and how they move and pose has her achieve remarkably life-like renderings in materials that one would never think could lend themselves to such sculptural naturalism. Her son Paco, with whom she collaborates, is an extraordinarily talented young mask maker and painter – who, faithfully, every year dons his diablo mask created for the annual ceremony of the Danza/Juego de los Diablitos in Boruca village, located in the southern Pacific watershed of Costa Rica.
This turtle figure wonderfully captures these reptiles’ essence and character. On their shells – jicara fruit – they carry forest scenes beautifully rendered by this most talented artist.