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Life and Death by Siberian Yupik Eskimo Carver Darin Slwooko, Alaska


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"Kiyaghneq - Tuqu"

by Darin Slwooko of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal whale bone into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Darin Slwooko.

This Polar Bear and seal was carved from whalebone by Darin Slwooko 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' 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. One of the most remote areas of the U.S

Darin 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.

"Kiyaghneq - Tuqu" - Life and Death struggle in the Native Siberian Yup'ik language or Polar Bear bear catching a seal. Darin carved this dramatic scene from whalebone found in the old village of Gambell. It was from a forward fluke bone of a whale, similar to a knuckle bone in our hand. This piece shows all the rich textures and dark patina of old whalebone which was buried for centuries. The eyes and nose are inlaid baleen, a fibrous vertical material found in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it.

This scene depicts a Polar bear attacking a seal. The drama of life and death, the predator and prey, the cycle of life. 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 bone includes avoiding hot dry locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like bone!

Darin signed his name on the bottom. The piece measures 2 7/8 inches long, 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 5/8 inches high.

This is a real fine piece. It would make a great and highly symbolic unique gift from a very remote area of the world. Add it to your collection.

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