Masks: Tribal Masks of the Brunka

The Danza de los Diablitos has been celebrated by the Brunka tribe, a Costa Rica indigenous people,  from early colonial times up to the present day. Throughout the years, a stylistic evolution can be noted from the very primitive diablo carved masks of yesteryear, with rough-hewn cuts creating the mask’s gross features, up to today’s diablo tribal mask aesthetic emphasizing the flashy, exaggerated and outrageous.

The wooden masks are the main focus of the jugador ‘s (player, or dancer) outfit used in the danza, but complementing the mask are the outfits worn by the jugador made of gangoche (burlap sack cloth), long, leafy plantain leaves, as well as parts, or even entire outfits, made from their famed traditional woven-cotton textiles. The diablos are hooded and often engage in “battle” with the toro brandishing coloured ribbon ‘whips’ or other fetishistic objects to provoke the bull.

Several diablos let hang around their torsos a jícara (the shell of a dried, local fruit) canteen full of a traditional, and culturally important fermented corn liquor, chicha, which they imbibe in quantity during the three days while the event lasts.

The masks worn in the ceremony are carved from balsa wood or tropical cedar wood and are either left natural, smeared with pigments and charcoal, or painted. Several masks can also be seen adorned with animal parts, and/or natural fibres and seeds.

Traditionally, after the three day event has ended, these masks are discarded (if they have not already been shattered during the danza) and approaching the date of the following year’s danza, another generation of ceremonial, tribal masks are carved anew.

Galeria Namu, a culturally sensitive, fair trade art gallery in Costa Rica, offers a wide variety of masks from the Brunka tribe.  We are, however, the only resource for the Used Ceremonial Masks.  These are the masks that have actually been worn in the Danza de los Diablitos in the Costa Rica villages of  Boruca, or Rey Curré.  These, and our full woven and wooden masks collections, provide unique wall art.

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