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Walrus Ivory Shaman Polar Bear by Jason Kaningok, North Bering Sea


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by Jason Kaningok 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 Jason Kaningok.

This walking shaman Polar Bear was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus by Jason Kaningok 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.

Jason 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 ancient culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

“Nanuq“ is the Native Siberian Yupik word for Polar Bear, the great white bear of the north. Jason carved this beautiful Polar bear from the tusk of a walrus. The center of the walrus tusk is a mottled light gold/cream color, while the outer portions consists of a cream to pure white, hence the color variations. The mottled light gold center is visible on the rear and lower neck. The cream color makes up the body and the pure white can be seen on the sides. The eyes and nose are inlaid baleen, a fibrous material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it.

This carving depicts a walking Polar Bear sniffing the air in the midnight sun, trying to catch the scent of a seal. It also has a hint of human form, the Shaman Bear. The Polar Bear is symbolic of a powerful warrior, and in the old days was the Father of all the Yup'ik people, and the source of their instincts. The polar bear is only taken by an accomplished and skilled hunter, as in the old days the only weapon was a spear. Polar Bear claws were mounted close to the entrance of the house to ward off evil spirits. They also had therapeutic qualities, such as a cure for headache. Polar Bear fur provided for warm cloths and bedding. People called upon the spirit of “Nanuq“ to witness their oaths.

Care of ivory 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 or Q-tip, avoid an acid based oil such as lemon oil. Jason's initials are on the bottom. The piece measures 1 5/8 inches high, 1 1/4 inches wide and about 3 3/4 inches long.

This a a real fine elegant piece, it would make a real unique gift from one of the most remote areas of the U.S. Could be a Spirit Guide?

Buy it now!