The Brunka Tribal Masks
The Brunka (also known as the Boruca) tribe of the Southern Pacific region of Costa Rica are the protagonists of a unique, centuries-old indigenous mask-making tradition centered around their annual celebration called the Danza or Juego de los Diablitos. This tribal ceremony is of social-historic importance to the Brunka and has been faithfully celebrated for centuries – always at the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.
The legacy of the ceremonial diablo mask worn in the Danza de los Diablitos is the root of the more recent phases of the Brunka’s mask making tradition. Displayed in our online catalogue here, the visitor will see different iterations of the carved masks and the evolution which stems from the original traditional diablo mask. The different mask styles are:
- used, or worn ceremonial masks (mostly balsa wood, some tropical cedar)
- traditional diablo masks (balsa wood or tropical cedar)
- hybrid ‘ecological-diablo’ masks (balsa wood or tropical cedar)
- highly elaborate and detailed ‘ecological/cultural masks’ (balsa wood or tropical cedar)
- the toro (bull) mask (tropical cedar or other hardwoods) representing the Spanish invader in the Brunka’s tribal history – a single personage in the ceremony and the antagonist of the multitude of diablos who represent the defending indigenous population.
The remarkable and seemingly endless creativity displayed by the Brunka artists, brought out to its fullest expression in these masks is most inspiring as well as very insightful regarding the Brunka’s native cosmology and tribal history. The objet d’art,which their ‘ecological/cultural masks’ of theirs’ have become, attest to the rich biodiversity of the Southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica. Some of these mask compositions also bear witness to the deep-rooted and ancient culture of this tribal group whose ancestors were the famed Pre-Hispanic gold workers and creators of the mysterious, and still unexplained stone spheres pertaining to the glorious Diquís/Gran Chiriquí culture (700 AD – European contact). Each mask has been signed by the artist and most are accompanied with a photo of the mask-maker. Even though each mask is a unique and non-repeated composition, when a mask in our catalogue sells, the same mask could be re-created by the artist on request resulting in a similar rendering of the original mask.