Maleku Art
"Kapi Kapi"

A Maleku Greeting and also a welcoming phrase

Once you enter the Maleku indigenous reserve you will see some wonderfull art. The beauty of each piece will depend on the skill of the person that created it, and almost everyone on the reserve will do some pieces, even the little children. They are colorful and naive, and they represent their believes and way to see the world.

Most of their art pieces are made out of Bambu and Jicara, which is a fruit that when it dries it gets hard. Although their art is no longer as ostencios as it once was, all members of the tribe work together to paint and sell these pieces to art lovers.

Some of the animals that you will most frequently see on the Maleku art work are:

Thanks to the special help given by Maleku Tafa.

El jaguar or Tafa is the most important animal on the Maleku culture. It is the stronger animal and it represents the person that comands and guides the tribe.




The Black Peacock, called in Spanish Pavón is an important animal in the Maleku Culture.

This animal is beloved to be designated by God as a protector of the Maleku hunter.

You may see the pictorical representation of the bird TUFI om the typical rain sticks made by the Maleku artists.

There are many birds representated on Malekus art since they are so important for their culture and are part of their daily living.
















Ola (Lapa Roja in Spanish)

It is the Maleku word for "Lapa Roja" (Spanish), or Macaw in English. This bird represents the Sacred and the untouchable aspects of Nature.

The beautiful feathers of these birds are used in buries also. The meaning of this bird on Maleku art has relation to fidelity since the Maleku people really precious monogamy.













Pajaro Maleku

Rana Maleku










Tucan MalekuPili - It is the Maleku word for a Toucan (Tucán in Spanish). They are also pictured around big leaves (called Aru on Maleku) and other colorful birds.

The meaning of this bird among the Maleku people is the tranquilizing force of Woman over the natural aggressiveness of Man. It also means the inner and outer beauty of a person and it is related to their beautiful color.

This beautiful and colorful brid is also a very romantic bird. Depending on the way a Maleku artist paint a Toucan or "Pili", it represents something specificly.

For example if a toucan is looking upward is representing a peaceful and happy time, as if it were looking toward God. On the other hand, if the toucan is looking downward it reflects a dangerous and chaotic situation.















Oso Hormiguero




Anteater / Oso Hormiguero / Oron


Bobo Maleku






Other animal that is widely depicted on Maleku are is the Coral Snake. In spanish it is called Culebra Coral and the Maleku word for this animal is Jalhanh or Jalan. Because of its ways and inteligence this animal represents the person with most experience or an experpt on the shaman's medicinal arts.

In the Maleku art there are a lot of different birds depicted. The little bird is also called Jumping Bird or Pajaro Saltarin in Spanish. In Maleku language this brid is called "Piluctuc". The name of this bird refers to its natural inclination to jump from branch to branch or from tree to tree. It is a very small but beautiful and colorful bird and can be found on the wetlands bird.

The Blue Morpho or Mariposa Azul in Spanish is the national butterfly of Costa Rica. In the Maleku language this butterfly is called "fufu". Its gorgeous blue wings flutter gracefully through fields and forests throughout the country. For the Malekus, the bright blue of the Morpho represents the color of love or love itself. It is a whole leyend that was created from this mystical creature.

Another important animal is the Trogon, called in Maleku language Ancoc. It is mostly important because of its colors: The green represents the forest, the red represents potential destruction of nature which serves as a warning to mankind to treat Nature with respect, and the white represents purity and cleanliness.

The Hummingbird or Colibri, called Piji in Maleku represents the curiosity of the Maleku people and also the peace. In some Maleku house spiderwebs are left to attract hummingbirds since they bring with them peace.

The owl is called Mucmuc, and it represents the vision of the future.

uri uri


Uri uri is the Maleku name for monkeys.









For more information about the Maleku culture, visit their site: