These authentic ritual masks made in the heart of the jungle of the Central American rainforest are the strong and magical element of a unique decoration. Read the story..
Originally used by shamans, they were designed and made by the women of the Embera & Wounaan tribes.
The masks are made deep in the forest. The women work together in each village at their own pace. It is not uncommon to see the women working together as a family or talking to neighbours, all in hammocks gently swaying in the wind.
Each of these masks was made entirely by hand with the only tool being a needle. The material they used to make the masks is called "chunga", a type of palm. The palm leaves are harvested, dried and bleached in the sun. Once they have chosen the part they want to use, the women remove stains and other pigment defects with boiled lemon water and dye the leaves with vegetable-based paint. This is a grand moment: wood fires are lit and the women gather to perform this work.
The dye is extracted from the pulp of fruits or roots, as well as from wood chips, leaves and seeds. Sometimes different ingredients are mixed together. The strands are dipped in a hot dye bath and then dried.
Once dyed, the chunga is ready for the wonderful task of weaving. The structure is made with another plant, coarser and stiffer: the "nahuala", which disappears completely once the piece is finished. The nahuala helps create the shape and final size of the head and, in a sense, acts as the frame.
These pieces are made far from city life; each mask is inspired by the environment and by individual and collective imagination. The women observe the jungle, the animals around them, but also their dreams and beliefs play an important role.
Look at the expression of these animals! For example, there are many images of monkeys, but no two are the same. Aggressive, funny, gentle, each expression is unique.... Their gaze is fascinating but sometimes disturbing.
Horses, leopards, crocodiles and a multitude of tropical birds; the range is endless because each mask is and remains a unique work of art.
It may be that each mask conveys a message. Keep in mind that it will stay with you all your life. And remember that it owes its existence to shamanism and the spirits of the afterlife. It is the link between the visible world and the invisible world, inviting the soul to venture into the boundaries of these two worlds.
No one can deny that they exude great mystery and life force; they are magical and animate.
Choose your mask or let a mask "enchant" you too.