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Walrus Tusk Cribbage Board by King Island Eskimo Carver Fred Mayac

$265.00

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"Uyghagaq"

by Fred Mayac, North Bering Sea

This unique Cribbage Board was hand carved from the ivory tusk of a walrus by King Island Eskimo carver Fred Mayac. Fred comes from a long line of carvers. The Mayac family carvings are avidly collected and sought after in Alaska and the lower 48. The Mayac carvings are displayed in the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Anchorage Native Hospital collection and various private collections in Anchorage and featured in the book Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea by Dale Kessler. Fred prides himself in the fine detail and depth of the feather work. This Common Loon is in a swimming stance. Note the fine detail of the bill and depth and textures of the feathers. This is a very nice carving and truly one of a kind.

Fred's family was originally from King Island, located in the Bering Straits, about 40 miles off the coast of Nome Alaska, about 60 miles from Russia. The Siberian Yup'ik people occupied this area for thousands of years. Carving is a rich tradition of the Siberian Yup'ik people. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Siberia. The island is no longer inhabited, the people relocated their village to Nome in the 1960s because the area was so difficult to get to. Towering sea cliffs and a pounding surf made access very difficult. The only reliable way to access the island was by helicopter, which was very expensive. The village had a very distinctive look, the slopes were very steep, so all the houses were built on stilts. Most walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are found washed up on beaches after storms. 

Cribbage Board or "Uyghagaq" in the Siberian Yupik language. Actually the literal translation means a game played using walrus teeth for counters but my dear friend Virginia said there is no specific Siberian Yupik word but this would convey the idea. It's made from the tips of two walrus tusks mounted on a walrus ivory base. The center of the walrus tusk is a mottled light gold color, while the outer portions consist of a pure cream to white colored ivory, hence color variations especially on the base. There are very faint black lines or temperature cracks on the lower sides of the tusks. Temperature cracks are caused when the walrus was hauled out in life and sunning on a beach, warming their bodies and tusks, then plunging back into the cold arctic sea. Their tusks develop surface cracks and are stained black by minerals in the sea water, adding to the richness of the carving. In the Siberian Yup'ik culture loons were spirit helpers, summoned by the Shaman to bring gifts of the spirit. Birds were carved into amulets and their feathers adorned the clothing of those who summoned the spirits. The presence of a bird during a ritual was a good omen, and a sign of good things to come. Birds were also a source of food, and their eggs came at a time when food was in short supply, early spring.

Care of Ivory includes avoiding hot dry areas such as direct sun in a window or a heat register.

The tusks measures 6 1/4 inches long. 1 1/4 inches wide. It's a unique piece. Fred Mayac's signature is on the inner side under the loons. This is a beautiful piece and a fine example of Native Yup'ik carving and would make a great addition to a collection. No pegs come with the piece.

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