Like others who know and respect the work of Rycardo Alcivar, I come to attention when approaching the Rio Jama bridge in northwestern Manabi, Ecuador.    On the Jama side of the bridge and precariously close to the highway, Rycardo is often seen fine tuning details on his latest sculpture.     A popular icon, he sometimes pauses to acknowledge greetings, shouts and horns from locals passing by in cars or beach-bound collectivo trucks or even bicycles.

The present sculpture is highly complicated, not only in design but also in symbolism.   On one side a life-sized jaguar reaches the zenith and approaches a larger-than life bat, which soars over a sun and moon.

As if emerging from the earth, a huge raptor anchors the base and leads the eye to a poetic cast of icons that all but float from ground (the underworld) to the top (the heavens/spirit world).

A lone star presides at the top, while a dark-colored snake with white spots slithers from top to bottom.

At times visitors stop to admire Rycardo’s work and visit the whimsical museum, which looks like it came from the pages of a Dr. Sues book!  With a tiny-but-well-built set of steps,   the petite structure houses an eclectic collection of artifacts.

Rycardo’s infectious love for pre-Columbian artifacts rivals his profound love for nature.     The museum and Rycardo’s showroom reflect that love, and Rycardo’s  ever-changing exhibit coaxes  the viewer to take a closer look.

Strongly influenced by the Jama-Coaque Indian culture of the area, Rycardo sometimes blends their designs of long ago with his own imagination.   When not creating masterpieces from large chunks of discarded trees (usually from the beach) Rycardo also designs petite tagua carvings from the nut of the (Phytelephas aequatorialis)*1 palm.    Quite complicated, his tagua pieces range from traditional to five colors – the latter a process he perfected after years of trial and error.

At Rycardo’s gate a Jama-Coaque*2 ‘hand’ adorns a rock in petroglyph style.   Just inside the entrance, a snake serpentines down a pole and leads the eye to giant carved bat that greets anyone who pauses to look up.    Having been bitten by vampire bats five times over a ten-year span, I give the bat my regards and quickly step inside!

Medusa-worthy sculpted snakes emerge from the tangled roots of a stump.  A simple-yet-well-built-chair invites the weary traveler to sit for a few minutes.    An oversized replica of Ecuador’s most famous precolumbian  gold mask adorns one wall.  Rycardo’s tagua inventory was depleted, though he promised new pieces soon!

After a tour of the museum and showroom, I watched Rycardo scramble to the top of his sculpture and resume work.  Blotting out the sounds of traffic, bare-footed Rycardo balanced near the top of the sculpture while pounding his chisel with a wooden mallet.   Closing his eyes and assessing his progress by touch, he made mental adjustments and resumed working.

If you find yourself approaching the bridge over Rio Jama, consider a short detour through Rycardo’s world.    He might be perched at the zenith of his sculpture, or he might be working in the back or sharing his love of archaeology with a museum visitor.   There’s a chance you might miss him; he might be at the beach or in the dense woods in search of materials for future designs!

Enjoy your visit through his unique property and emerge with a lighter heart!

(Be sure to say, ‘hello’ to the bat for me!)     – Z

See another profile on Rycardo at http://www.escoffee.com/paginas/caficultores/rycardo-alcivar.html


1.  (Tagua Palm) Phytelephas aequatorialis  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytelephas_aequatorialis

2. Jama-Coaque: http://www.manabi-ecuador.nl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=191:jama-archaelogy&catid=95&Itemid=453