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Walrus Bone Humpback Whale by Eskimo Carver William Soonagrook Sr.


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by William Soonagrook Sr. of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

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

This Humpback Whale was carved from the lower jawbone of a walrus by William Soonagrook Sr. 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 U.S. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia.

William has carved for many years and is a master carver. His sons Billy Boy, Ladd and Moses are well known carvers in Alaska. Their work is featured the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Airport collection, the Wells Fargo Collection and private collections. His work is also featured in a book titled "Ivory Carvers of St. Lawrence Island" by Dale Kessler. 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 culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

Humpback Whale or "Aghvesiiq" - which is Humpback Whale in the Siberian Yup'ik language. William carved this stunning Humpback from a partially fossilized lower jawbone of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell. It's a real dense bone and its curving and twisting shape makes an excellent medium for carving. It was buried for centuries. The eyes are inlaid baleen; a black fibreous material in the mouth of bowhead whales, they strain food through it. It's mounted on an whalebone "Ooziva", a backbone disk from a bowhead whale, equivalent to our backbone disk. Traditionally these were carved into dishes, seal oil lamps and spirit masks.

In the Siberian Yup'ik culture the Humpback whale was a source of food, tools and building materials. The takeing of a whale was a village affair, and is symbolic of the community of sharing. It took the cooperation of many to feed the village. Their is still the remains of an old whalebone house in Gambell.

Care of walrus bone includes avoiding hot dry areas like direct sun in a window or heat from a heat register. Give it an occasional very light coating of mineral oil or baby oil, put it on a cloth first.

William signed the underside of the whale are. The piece measures 7 inches long, 1 inch thick and 1 3/4 inch wide. This is a very nice piece with rich texture and would be a real nice gift for yourself or someone special. It's carved by a Native carver from a very remote area of the world.

Buy it now!