by Beulah Oittilliah of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea
Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from fur seal and walrus ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Beulah Oittilliah.
This beautiful Alaskan Eskimo Yup'ik Kayaker doll was hand made by Beulah Oittilliah of Gambell, Alaska, a small Siberian Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering Straits. It's about 140 miles off shore from Nome Alaska, and about 40 miles from Russia. Their native Siberian Yup'ik language is spoken on both the U.S. and Russian sides of the straits. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Siberia.
Beulah has crafted hand made Eskimo dolls for many years and is a master Yup'ik doll maker, an old tradition on the island. Her work is featured in a book titled: Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea, by Dale Kessler. Each doll is unique and one of a kind. Much of the ivory and whalebone is found washed up on beaches after storms. Doll making and carving are a rich tradition on St. Lawrence Island, it helps sustain their ancient proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area. The dolls have maintained their uniqueness because of the isolated nature of the island.
This beautiful handmade hunter in a kayak was made from a wide variety of native materials. The face, hands and the spear points are ivory from the tusk of a walrus. The front tip or point of the spear was designed to detach in an animal and it was tied with seal gut sinew to a seal float bag on the back of the kayak. The eyes, spear shaft and paddle are baleen, a fibrous material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. The traditional Eskimo rain parka is Seal gut. The hood portion of the parka is trimmed with Spotted Seal Fur. The float bag is made from gray-silver spotted fur seal. The hull of the kayak is shaved fur seal, you can feel the stubble.
"Angyaq" or hunter in Kayak in the Siberian Yup'ik language. The walrus skin "Quyaq", or kayak, was a traditional near shore boat for hunting seals, birds, small whales, and with the help of others the taking of walrus. Kayaks were made from drift wood and wrapped with the hide of a female walrus, which was thin and flexible. The spear was attached to a float bag made from seal skin. The Yup'ik hunter would glide silently up to a "U.ttug" or "seal basking on the ice". The point of the spear would be embedded in the seal and attached to the float bag. Walrus were generally hunted from larger boats called Umiaks. Walrus will defend themselves and the herd will come to rescue a hunted walrus. Individual walrus can be driven ashore with the aid of a baleen clapper, or flat piece of baleen with which they would slap the ocean surface, which sounded like an Orca, the enemy of the walrus. Hence the walrus would seek land, where the hunters waited.
The hull measures 10 3/8 inches long, it's 6 inches high at the head, and about 3 1/2 to 4 inches wide. Beulah's traditional way of signing her signature with a black marker is on the bottom. This unique handcrafted doll is a real beauty. A photo of Beulah will accompany the piece.
This unique handcrafted Eskimo doll is one of a kind and would make a very unusual gift. It would be a wonderful addition to a collection and the subject of much conversation.
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