Rainforest Masks returning to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The popular Rainforest Masks of Costa Rica art exhibition will return to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus from January 7 to 22, 2023.

Featuring the traditional art of the Indigenous Boruca tribe of the Costa Rican rainforest, the show will include more than 400 colorful masks and other hand-crafted pieces on display inside the Museum of Botany & the Arts and available for purchase by visitors. A ticketed preview on January 6 will give a limited number of attendees the first opportunity to view and purchase artworks in the 2023 exhibition.

The annual Rainforest Masks show is a collaboration between Selby Gardens and Lucuma Designs, a Sarasota-based wholesale fair-trade partner that represents artists and artist cooperatives in Costa Rica and Peru. Since 2004, Selby Gardens has showcased the masks of the Borucan tribe, bringing their traditional art and its themes of heritage, nature, and sustainability to a wider audience. The show also empowers the artists through income from mask sales that helps support their village and their growing conservation efforts.

The exhibition will run from Saturday, January 7, through Sunday, January 22, and access is included with general admission to the Gardens. On Friday, January 6, Selby Gardens will host a special ticketed preview, during which visitors will be the first to see this year’s masks and get first dibs on purchasing their favorites. (Purchased masks and other items will remain on display for the duration of the exhibition. Pick-up or shipping after the show’s completion can be arranged at the time of purchase.) Tickets for the limited-capacity preview event are available on the Selby Gardens website at selby.org.

The cultural practice of mask-making honors the heritage of the Borucan people and reflects the strong connection they maintain with the natural environment in their remote, mountainous area of southwestern Costa Rica. Borucan tradition holds that the tribe’s ancestors fended off Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s by wearing traditional warrior masks decorated to represent animal and nature spirits, which scared away the invaders, enabling the tribe to keep its village and identity intact. Today, many of the villagers continue the tradition of making hand-carved and painted masks and other crafts, with a growing focus on environmental sustainability in their work.

This year’s exhibition will celebrate and explore common motifs in the work of the Borucan artists. The hundreds of masks to be displayed abound with plants and animals, often intertwined in complex compositions that heighten the dimensionality of the works. Common motifs include orchids, butterflies, hummingbirds, frogs, sloths, jaguars, and warriors.

To learn more about Rainforest Masks of Costa Rica and plan your visit, go to selby.org.

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