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Kokabola

Hand carved dried coconut, branches, acrylic, stain, dried grass, salvaged wood

Collaboration with Juan Pablo Vizcaino (mask maker from Loiza, Puerto Rico)

 

During the transatlantic slave trade Africans from the Congo were taken and brought to Puerto Rico as slaves. Tainos and Africans shared many survival and craft skills, including the skill of hand carving. The original design of the Vejigante mask from Loiza was inspired by the traditional masks of the Congo.

I designed this mask to represent the influence and pride of the African heritage in Puerto Rico. Carving the mask to have a traditional Vejigante style but with Congolese colors, markings, and shapes. "KOKABOLA" is a Lingala word meaning to divide; to share. In Loíza, the vejigantes represent the Muslim Moors in the Catholic festival of the Feast of Santiago. This festival, also celebrates the ouster of the Moors from Spain. Some explain their inclusion in the religious festival as a symbol of the ongoing battle of good over evil. No matter the history, Loíza’s population (primarily of African descent) views the vejigante as a strong, and unapologetic character with a history of survival and a connection to Africa that they can relate to.