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Jawbone Ivory Walrus by Yupik Eskimo Carver Brandon Oseuk, Alaska


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by Brandon Oseuk of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal walrus bone into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Brandon Oseuk.

This very nice swimming walrus was carved from the lower jawbone of a walrus by Brandon 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 Siberian Yup'ik 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.
Brandon 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 of the walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are 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 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 swimming walrus was carved from the lower jawbone of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell. It took on a rich patina from being buried for centuries. The jawbone is a very dense bone that lends well to carving. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material found in the mouth of Bowhead whales, they strain food through it. The tusks and base are inlaid ivory from the walrus tusk. Brandon carved lots of subtle folds and creases in the skin giving it the look of a thick old hide. This walrus is in a swimming position.

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.

Brandon's signature (last name) is on the bottom. This is a nice piece and would make a great addition to a collection or a gift for someone with an eye for the unusual. The piece measures a little more than 2 3/4 inches high, 4 3/4 inches long and 1 inch wide. This is a very beautiful piece and would make a great gift for someone special.

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