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Ivory Walrus by Yupik Eskimo Carver Reggie Aningayou Gambell Alaska


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by Reggie Aningayou 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 Reggie Aningayou.

This beautiful walrus was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus by Reggie Aningayou 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.

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

Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus, meaning tooth walker), or "Ayveq" - which is walrus in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful walrus was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus. The center of the walrus tusk is a rich light golden/yellow color with a mottled texture while the outer portions are a smooth cream and pure white. This walrus is very rich in texture and color. The rich mottled yellowish/gold center of the tusk can be seen in the upper part of the body and head. The outer cream surrounds the center and the pure white can be seen very faintly on its snout and backside. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material found in the mouth of Bowhead whales, they strain food through it. The tusks are inlaid ivory. There are faint black lines or temperature cracks on the back sides of the piece. 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. This walrus is in a hauled out position or "nunavak" in the Yup'ik language.

In the Siberian Yup'ik culture the walrus was a source of food, tools and material for artwork and trading. The female hides were stretched over driftwood to make their boats called "umiaks". Walrus were generally hunted from "umiaks". Walrus will defend themselves and the herd will come to rescue a hunted walrus. Individual walrus were driven ashore with the aid of a baleen clapper, or flat piece of baleen they would slap the ocean surface with, which sounded like an Orca (Killer Whale), the enemy of the walrus. The walrus would seek land, where the hunters waited. The walrus is considered a bringer of good luck and happiness.

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 first or a Q-tip, avoid an acid based oil such as lemon oil. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!

Reggie signed his Yupik name the bottom - Kanuk. The piece measures 3 1/2 inches long, a 1 inch wide and 1 5/8 inches high. This is a real fine piece and would make a great addition to a collection or a real unique gift from one of the most remote areas of the U.S.

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