Two Coasts and No Army, 3: Mapping the Cosmos, 29 November 2023

January 14, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

         In 2019, the Museum of Pre-Columbian Gold in San José underwent a complete renovation.  As part of it, the museum's directors commissioned a permanent multimedia installation, entitled U SuLé.  It was created by an artistic collective called Pulse.  The installation stood in the middle of the main gallery, behind a wall enclosing an oval space.    

       U Sulé means house in the language of the Bribri, a tribe native to the mountainous Talamanca region on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.  The traditional Bribri dwelling is a conical, thatched hut.  The Bribri model of the Universe is shaped like two huts joined at the base, accommodating nine levels of reality, each home to a different kind of being.   

       According to this scheme, the middle plane is the Earth, created for human clans to inhabit.   That world is called Iriria.  

            The installation was interactive and elaborate.  There was a thick metal pole in the center of the oval enclosure, and on it was a two-sided handle on a ring that moved up and down the pole's surface.  The structure resembled a spinal column, with the handle like a vertebra and the pole like the spinal cord passing through it.   There were marks on the pole, equally spaced, each corresponding to one of the nine cosmic realms.  When you pushed the bar to align with a mark, moving images illustrating that level were projected across the curved interior walls.  There was a descriptive narration for each realm, with a background of tribal music and, where relevant, bird and animal cries.

The home of the god Sibo, where it ascended after creating the Earth

The place where the darkness and its spirits were sent
 

          HL and I spent a long time sampling all the worlds.  I shall not regale you with the details of every one.  Especially fascinating to me was the topmost point, where the Creator's parent dwelled.  It was the place of total silence, and I read those words in Spanish and English several times.   Reluctantly, we left the mythic cosmos, and then only when we ceded the exhibit to a family with two young children.  


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