My new agouti: woodcarving in the Solentiname Islands

A wooden agouti, carved by Concepcion Vargas of Isla La Venada

A wooden agouti, carved by Concepción Garcia of Isla La Venada, one of the Solentiname islands

At the artisan cooperative on San Fernando Island, I fell in love with a pint-sized agouti. An oversized rodent that also goes by the names tepesquintle and guardatinaja, the agouti is cuter than its bloodline implies.

I liked the paintings, was intrigued by the painted birds and turtles, but the unpainted agouti, of cedar (not like the Pacific Northwest cedar) instead of the usual balsa, was the only item that convinced me it’d be worth carting around for the rest of my trip.

The creator of the agouti is a 39-year-old woman named Concepción Garcia. She lives on a modest farm on Isla La Venada (Deer Island), which, unlike San Fernando and Mancarron Islands, doesn’t have a town. She’s married to a Mosquito Indian man, has 3 children, and says she chose to work with wood instead of paint because paint is too expensive. She carves with a machete-like knife and has been at it for less than 5 years. I bought her agouti from the artist’s cooperative, and asked there where I could find the artist.

House of woodcarver Concepcion Garcia, Isla La Venada, Solintename Archipeligo, Nicaragua

House of woodcarver Concepción Garcia, Isla La Venada, Solintename Archipeligo, Nicaragua

We took our boat to Isla La Venada, calling to people on the shore, asking where we could find Concepción Garcia.

When we found her, up a narrow path from the lakeshore, she was very gracious, and brought out a bag of birds and other carved animals. None of them approached the agouti in charm, but I bought a few anyway, because we had disturbed her at home and because she obviously needed the money. She told us she didn’t get that much of the money when the artist’s cooperative sold her work.

Woodcarver Concepcion Garcia, in her home on Isla La Venada

Woodcarver Concepción Garcia, in her home on Isla La Venada in the Solentiname Islands

All photos by David W. Smith.

  • By Lindsy, November 27, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    Amazing posting, I really expect fresh news from you.

  • By Erin Van Rheenen, November 27, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

    Glad you like the post. And yeah, I expect fresh news from myself as well.

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