Dominican arts and crafts
Dominican arts and crafts reflect the country’s history and eclectic mélange of inhabitants. The Taino, Spanish, and African legacies have continued in numerous provinces around the country. The Taino, who were expert handicraftsmen, left behind tools and items inspired from mythology, rituals, and everyday life. You’ll spot remakes of the water gourds they once used, made from the higüero tree and sometimes coconut, with more elaborate designs. The African and Caribbean influence appears in colorful paintings of every day village and island life–with the best selections found in galleries. You will also see it in wooden items, such as the mini mortar and pestle made from guayacan, found in nearly every Dominican home, and souvenir shops. Jewelry features strongly, as two precious stones are mined directly from the DR’s soils: amber and larimar. The most emblematic Dominican arts and crafts are the faceless dolls; most often made of ceramic, these elaborately dressed figurines lack facial features to reflect the fact that Dominicans are of mixed races, and embrace their unique heritage.
There’s no shortage of handicrafts to take home. You will find items that are primarily made of plant fibers, clay, wood, paper, seeds, and precious stones.
Souvenir stores and art galleries abound across the main destinations. When shopping, look for a few signature items.
- Taino figurines, from deities to traditional tools, made of ceramic.
- Dominican music instruments in miniature or life sizes, made of wood, or painted bamboo, including drums and maracas.
- Elaborate, miniature carnival devil masks made of papier-mâché.
- Certified amber or larimar jewelry stores, some of which also show you the polishing process on site.
- Faceless dolls, made of ceramic, in varying sizes and colors.
- Hats, beach totes, and other accessories made from palm leaves.
- Figurines of cultural symbols like the rooster, musicians playing merengue, or religious figures, made of polychrome wood or ceramic.
- Colored carpet strips or “pellizas de colores,” made from jute fiber and rice bags, with the best selection often spotted on the road from Santiago to Bonao.
- Crafts made from recycled materials, such as Bonao’s colorfully painted flowerpots, made from old tires.