by Quentin Oseuk of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea
Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal old fossil walrus ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Quentin Oseuk.
This very nice Bowhead Whale was carved from an old fossil ivory tusk of a walrus by Quentin Oseuk 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. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia. One of the most remote areas of the U.S.
Quentin 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 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.
"Aghveq" - which is Bowhead Whale in the Siberian Yup'ik language.
Quentin carved this beautiful Bowhead Whale from an old fossil ivory tusk of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell, see section on St. Lawrence Island. It was buried for centuries and took on a rich tan petina. The center of the tusk has a light golden colored rich mottled texture, which can be seen very faintly on the top of the whale and on the center of the rear fluke. and the tan can be seen on the top of the head which gives the impression of a surfaceing whale. This Bowhead is very beautiful, old fossil ivory is rare. The eyes are inlaid baleen; a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. It’s mounted with a baleen pin on a walrus ivory base.
In the Siberian Yup'ik culture the Bowhead whale was the preferred whale as it relatively docile when approached by hunters with spears. It was a source of food, tools and building materials. There are several old whalebone structures in the old village of Gambell still standing. The taking of a whale was a village affair, and was symbolic of the community of sharing. It took the cooperation of many to feed the village. Bowheads spend most of their lives in the Arctic seas. They have a massive bone structure on their heads for breaking through the ice. There are approximately 10,000 to 12,000 Bowhead whales in the North Arctic Ocean, and they produce approximately 350 to 400 calves each year.
Care of ivory and baleen includes avoiding hot dry locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Give it an occasional very light coating of baby oil or mineral oil, put it on a cloth first or a Q-tip, avoid an acid based oil such as lemon oil. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!
Quentin signed his last name is on the bottom. The ivory piece measures 3 5/8 inches long, 3/4 inch wide and 1 1/2 inches high.
This is a very nice piece and would make a nice gift for someone interested in whales.
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