by Moses Soonagrook 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 Moses Soonagrook.
This very nice walrus was carved from walrus ivory by Moses Soonagrook 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.
Moses 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. He is the eldest son of the Soonagrook family of carvers. His father William Sr., brothers Billy Boy and Ladd are well known carvers in Alaska. His son Robert is learning to carve. Their work is featured the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Airport collection and in many public, private collections and featured in a book titled "Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea" by Dale Kessler.
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.
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 found in the old village of Gambell. The center of the tusk is a rich mottled texture while the outer portions are a smooth cream and pure white color. This walrus is very rich in texture and color. The rich mottled center of the tusk can be seen in the upper center part of the body, the outer cream and pure white can be seen on the front and back. The white is prominent on the front flipper and back. The tusks of are inlaid walrus ivory. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material found in the mouth of Bowhead whales, they strain food through it. There are faint black lines or temperature cracks on the back side 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 an alert position, head high and forward flipper raised, it's spotted something in the distance, perhaps a Yup'ik hunter or a Polar Bear.
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. A walrus hauled out on the ice is called "nunavak".
Care of ivory includes avoiding extremes in temperature change; give it an occasional light coating of baby oil or mineral oil, put it on a cloth or a Q-tip, avoid acid based lemon oil, and avoid hot dry areas of low humidity such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds really like ivory also!
Moses signed the bottom. The ivory piece measures 2 inches long, 1 3/8 inches wide and stands 1 7/8 inches high.
This a real fine piece, rich in color and texture carved by an Eskimo carver from a very remote area of the world. It would make a great gift from Alaska or a nice addition to a collection.
Buy it Now!