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Swimming Walrus, Carved Walrus Jawbone & Ivory by Moses Soonagrook AK


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by Moses Soonagrook of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal old walrus jawbone into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Moses Soonagrook.

This stunning walrus was carved from the lower jawbone of a walrus 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, one of the most remote areas of the US. 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 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. Their work is featured the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Airport collection and the Wells Fargo collection, and also featured in a book titled "Ivory Carvers of St. Lawrence Island".
Moses 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 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 the lower jawbone of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell. It took on the rich colors and textures from being buried for centuries. The jawbone is a very dense bone and has a nice curve that lends well to the twisting and diving shape of a swimming walrus. On land walrus are a huge mass of plodding blubber, not so in the sea where they are meant to be. This swimming walrus is sleek and elegant, capable of diving deep in search of bottom dwelling food or to escape their enemies, the Orca and Polar Bear. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material found in the mouth of Bowhead whales, they strain food through it. The tusks are inlaid ivory from the walrus tusk. It's mounted on a jawbone base with a baleen pin.

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". In the old days 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.

Moses's signature is on the bone base, which is cut from where the jawbone articulated with the skull. The piece measures 4 inches high, 8 3/8 inches long and 3 inches wide.

It's a very elegant piece and would be a real surprise gift or an excellent addition to a collection. It was carved by a Native carver from a very remote area.

Buy it now!