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Carved Walrus Ivory Seal by Siberian Yupik Eskimo John Apangalook


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by John Apangalook of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal walrus ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist John Apangalook.

This very nice Northern Spotted Fur Seal bone was carved from a walrus ivory tusk by John Apangalook of Gambell, Alaska; a small Siberian Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering Straits. Their language is spoken on both the U.S. and Russian side of the straits. It's about 140 miles off shore from Nome Alaska, and about 40 miles from Russia, one of the most remote areas of the U.S. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia.

John has carved for many years and is a master carver. He carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whalebone, and trims them with baleen from Bowhead whales. Much walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are either dug up or found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition for the Native Alaskan people on St. Lawrence Island, it helps sustain their proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

Northern Seal or "Neghsaq" in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This is a fine example of Native Alaskan Yup'ik art. This ivory seal was carved from the tusk of a walrus. The center of the tusk is a mottled light golden/cream color, while the outer portions consists of cream colored with a pure white outer layer, hence the color variations. The mottled golden center shows as a thin stripe on the forward sides under the chin. The body is from the cream colored ivory and there is a touch of pure white on the top of the piece. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. The nose and whiskers are inked.

In the Yup'ik culture the seal represented the feminine aspect of life and human nature, the gentle and caring, deeply intuitive, a trait that is the foundation for lasting leadership. Seals were hunted for oil, meat and hides. The hides were made into floats and attached to a spear. The Yup'ik hunter would glide silently in their kayak up to a “U.ttug” or “seal basking on the ice”. The head of the spear would detach and the seal would be kept afloat with the seal air bag.

Care of ivory and baleen includes avoiding hot dry locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds really like ivory also!

John signed his first name and last initial on the bottom. The piece measures 3 1/2 inches long, 1 1/2 inches wide at the forward fluke and about 1 inch high.

It's a very nice piece, very realistic and would be a real out of the ordinary gift for yourself or someone special. It's carved by a Native carver from a very remote area of the world. Add it to your collection now.

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