During the 1980’s, many young Borucans left the village in search of jobs. To prevent younger generations from losing their cultural roots, artist Don Ismael Gonzalez trained a group of eleven to twelve year-old boys in traditional mask-making. Later, some of these students were invited to the capital to study art and painting while others remained in Boruca to attend high school. For several years this group continued working in Ismael’s workshop, developing their carving and painting skills. Five master artists represented in this 2020 exhibit trained with the late Don Ismael, who is now revered as the father of the modern Borucan mask movement.
In the 1990’s, an outsider requested a mask with a macaw and a “little Indian face” and so the modern ecological mask was born! With this new creative impulse, masks and the Borucan culture gained attention outside the village. Artists became more aware and empowered to care for their natural environment. Mask makers became leaders in preserving their language as they dug deeper into their unique history and tradition for sources of inspiration.
The continuity of the rainforest mask exhibits of at Selby Garden (since 2004) has offered fertile ground for creativity to flow and for this art to reach new levels. With this partnership, the modern masks keep evolving thanks to new admirers and influences from Sarasota and around the world. We hope you enjoy this beautiful cultural exchange between the Sarasota community and the Borucan artists.