On a recent Saturday afternoon, full of enthusiasm following the southern Caribbean beach town of Puerto Viejo’s first Arte Viva celebration (TT, Sept. 22), several artists dropped by what’s become a gathering place for local artists and their work: luluBerlu gallery and art shop.
While an occasional tourist browses the handmade clothing, paintings, mosaic-covered furniture, jewelry and other artistic wonders, Natasha Nokin speaks of her store, her art and her regional collaborations.
Originally from France, Nokin opened the store and gallery five and a half years ago as a vending point for regional artists and a place to display her own art (TT, Aug. 27, 2004).
Hers includes antique European forms covered in tiny ceramic tiles, lamps made of shells and coconuts, African-style wooden chairs and mirrors edged with tile and shells.
Nokin is beginning an apprenticeship program, teaching some youth from Puerto Viejo the secrets of her mosaic work, which, besides the furniture, covers the sidewalk, entryway, counters and some floors in her shop. Her work area is in the back patio, where dozens of jars hold bits of ceramic, and works in progress sit on marine-grade plywood, soaking up reggae tunes as they wait for grout.
Friends and collaborators drift in and out, among them Billy Álvares, whom Nokin describes as “a Rasta whose hero is Bob Marley,” and portrait maker Fabio Cárdenas.
Álvares pauses for a photo next to images of Marley, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, which he painted on slabs of rough-edged wood. Cárdenas stays to discuss local development, and the all-ages success of the Arte Viva festival, when Puerto Viejo became an outdoor art gallery and celebration of food and music.
Other artists featured at luluBerlu, whose French name roughly means “world of fantasy,” include Bribrí landscape painter Fran Vazques and Walter Banlok, originally from Belgium.