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Ivory Walrus Hauled Out by Siberian Yupik Carver Richard Napowotuk AK


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by Richard Napowotuk 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 Richard Napowotuk.

This hauled out walrus was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus by Richard Napowotuk 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.

Richard 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 (see "about Me page"). 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 "Nunavak" - which is walrus hauled out on ice in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful walrus  was carved from an ivory tusk. The center of the walrus tusk is a rich 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/tan center of the tusk can be seen on the top center part of the body and the bottom. The outer cream surrounds the center and the pure white can be seen on the sides. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material found in the mouth of Bowhead whales, they strain food through it. This walrus is in a hauled out position or "nunavak" in the Yup'ik language. It's side flippers raised, perhaps scratching!

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

Richard's Yupik name "Yama" is on the bottom along with "Gambell, AK". The piece measures 1 7/8 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1 1/4 inches high.

This a a real fine piece and would make a real unique gift from one of the most remote areas of the U.S.

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