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 ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Moses Soonagrook.
This elegant beluga whale was carved from an old partially fossilized walrus tusk 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. 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 carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whalebone, and trims them with baleen from Bowhead whales. 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. His son Robert is learning to carve. Their work is featured the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Airport collection and in many public, private collections and featured in a book titled "Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea" by Dale Kessler.
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.
"Puugzaq" which is Beluga Whale in the Siberian Yup'ik language.
Moses carved this very nice Beluga Whale from an old ivory tusk of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell. It was buried for centuries and took on a light gray patina, adding to the richness of the carving. The center of the tusk has a light golden colored rich mottled texture. This piece shows all the rich colorations of a tusk. This piece is carved mostly from the center gold mottled part. The center is surrounded by a light gray color. This beluga is very beautiful. The eyes are inlaid baleen; a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. It’s mounted with a baleen pin on an old walrus ivory base, stained gray from being buried.
Belugas are found in the coastal areas of Alaska, not generally open ocean whales. They are very gregarious and travel in large pods. They feed on salmon and frequently become stranded at low tide. They have adapted and simply wait for the next incoming tide. The beluga or white whale represents the feminine side of human nature, the gentile and caring, deeply intuitive, a trait that is the foundation for lasting leadership.
Care of ivory includes avoiding extremes in temperature change; give it an occasional light coating of baby oil or mineral oil, put it on a cloth or a Q-tip, avoid acid based treatment such as lemon oil, and avoid hot dry areas such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Remember - dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!
Moses signed the bottom. The beluga measures 3 1/8 inches long, 1 1/4 inches wide and 1/2 inches thick. It stands 1 3/8 inches high.
This a real fine piece carved from old ivory by an Eskimo carver from a very remote area of the world. It would make a great gift from Alaska or a nice addition to a collection.
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