Downtown San Jose is known for its art galleries and museums such as the Jade Museum, the Gold Museum and possibly the most exquisite– Galería Namu. Showcasing the most beautiful, intricate and treasured indigenous crafts, arts and folkloric collection of the Pre-Columbian people, this gallery has made a name for itself in the realm of endemic art.
“Namu” is the Bribri word for jaguar–the animal considered sacred in Central America. They took this name as such because their mission is to share and preserve the significance as well as the legacy of the indigenous people.
It’s not only the pre-historic and aboriginal masterpieces but also modern pieces of art that are displayed in Galería Namu. This art hub is also known for its ‘fair trade’ and reasonably-priced pieces.
Galería Namu conducts what they call a ‘fair trade’ wherein they pay the artists immediately. They do not engage in consignments as they believe that artists and artisans deserve a reasonable amount of compensation.
Even with the prices of the arts and crafts found in the gallery, you can actually buy something for as low as $10 and of course, the more valued ones come in a lot more expensive rates. Getting a souvenir here is a lot more memorable than buying a shirt or bringing home a magnet.
The Costa Rican Indigenous Groups
The Pre-Columbian people of Costa Rica are well craftsmen and have developed various techniques so as to carve, craft and design such complex collections. Some of the indigenous tribes of the country that have made these timeless pieces displayed in Galería Namu are the Bribri, Huetar, Guaymí, Boruca, Chorotega and Maleku groups.
The Indigenous Crafts and Folk Art
Brunka/Boruca Masks- One of the most favorite items found in this gallery are the brunka/boruca masks made of mostly tropical cedar and balsa wood. These masks were worn by the native people and some made/reconstructed by modern-day artists. These masks are worn and signify Costa Rica’s annual celebration called Juego de los Diablitos. The prices of these masks start at approximately $125.00
Wounaan Carved Tagua-Nature lovers would particularly find these carved pieces fascinating. The Wounaan tribe used tagua–which are local palm nuts that appear almost exactly like animal ivory. They used this resource in order to hand-craft animal and plant figurines as well as elegant-looking jewelries. No animals were hurt or killed in the process of making these carved tagua. Prices of the Wounaan Carved Tagua range from $36 to up to over $300.
Metal Arts and Crafts-The art pieces made of metals came about in this gallery when the government decided to conduct an art workshop for street kids, juvenile delinquents and the like. They were able to produce beautifully designed animal figurines mainly from metal and other recycled materials. For about $78, you could take one home with you.
Pre-Columbian Pottery-Some of the pots seen in Galería Namu are those that came from various museums that house Pre-Columbian pottery. Others are restored and reproduced by artists in order to further popularize and increase the number of these elaborate pieces. $58 can get you a piece but others are priced for as high as $500.
There are a lot more to see when you go to Galería Namu. You’d be amazed as to how advanced the arts and technique of indigenous Costa Rican people are. This place gives you an entirely different dimension and a wider view of the art of Pre-Columbian People.
The Galería Namu is located in downtown San Jose. Car rentals, private vehicles and buses can easily take you there. Just get off at the area between Calle 5 and 7. The gallery is just behind the Holiday Inn so it’s not hard to miss.
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