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Fossil Walrus Ivory Knife by Yupik Carver Charles Slwooko

$125.00

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"Semqatwhalek"

by Charles Slwooko 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 by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Charles Slwooko.

This stunning knife with a Walrus on one side and a standing Polar Bear on the other was carved from an old fossil ivory tusk of a walrus by Charles 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'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.

Charles chas carved for many years and is a master carver. He carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whalebone, and trimmed 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. Carving is a rich tradition for the Native Alaskan people on St. Lawrence Island; it helps sustain their ancient proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

Small pocket knife or "Semqatwhalek" in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful knife was carved from an old partially fossilized ivory tusk of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island. It features a Standing Polar Bear on one side and a walrus on the other side. The center of the tusk is a rich mottled texture with a light gold/tan color, while the outer portions are a rich tan and dark brown. The tusk was buried for centuries and took on a rich patina. The rich mottled light gold/yellow center of the tusk is present on the knife blade. The tusk is hollow, it was a small tusk carved from where the tusk joins the skull. The eye of the walrus and Polar Bear (and nose) are inlaid baleen; a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead whales, they strain food through it.

In the Yup'ik culture everyday objects such as a knife were embellished with the animals found in their environment.

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 first, avoid acid based oil such as lemon oil. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like Walrus Ivory!

The piece measures 5 inches long, 1 1/8 inches wide and 1/2 inches thick. Charles signed his initials on the bottom. It would not function as a knife or letter opener, as with repeated use it would break.

This is a very elegant richly colored piece and would make a great addition to a collection or a gift for someone with an eye for the unusual from one of the most remote areas of the U.S.

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