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Walrus Ivory Bowhead Whale by Yupik Carver Bryant Koonooka, Alaska


Availability: In stock


by Bryant Koonooka 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 and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Bryant Koonooka.
This very nice Bowhead Whale was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus by Bryant Koonooka 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.

Bryant 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 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.

Bowhead Whale or "Aghveq" - which is Bowhead Whale in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This very nicely done Bowhead whale was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus. The center of the tusk is a rich golden yellow mottled texture while the outer portions are a smooth cream and pure white color. This carving shows lots of subtle texture and color variations. The rich mottled light gold/yellow center of the tusk can be seen on the under side and center of the tail fluke. The outer cream makes up the body, and the pure white can be seen on the sides, producing a very nice effect. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead whales; they strain food through it. This whale is in a feeding position, mouth open and expelling sea water through its baleen filter and trapping food.

In the Siberian Yup'ik culture the Bowhead whale was the preferred whale as it relatively docile when approached by hunters with spears. It was a source of food, tools and building materials. There are several old whalebone structures in the old village of Gambell still standing. The taking of a whale was a village affair, and was symbolic of the community of sharing. It took the cooperation of many to feed the village. Bowheads spend most of their lives in the Arctic seas. They have a massive bone structure on their heads for breaking through the ice. There are approximately 10,000 to 12,000 Bowhead whales in the North Arctic Ocean, and they produce approximately 350 to 400 calves each year. 
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 or a q-tip, avoid acid based oil such as lemon oil. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!
Bryant's first initials and last name are on the bottom and year carved, 2003. The piece measures 2 7/8 inches long, 3/4 inch wide and 7/8 inches high.

This is a very nice 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.

This is a beautiful piece, Don't wait, Buy it now!