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Walrus Ivory Harpoon Head by Yupik Eskimo Carver Glen Oozevaseuk AK


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by Glen Oozevaseuk of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal walrus ivory and whale baleen into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Glen Oozevaseuk.

This is a modern depiction of and old harpoon head. It was carved from the tusk of a walrus by Glen Oozevaseuk of Gambell, Alaska, a small Siberian Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering Straits. It' 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 Siberia. Their native language is spoken on both sides of the straits.

Glen has carved for many years and is a master carver, he carves from the ivory tusk of a walrus and whalebone and trims them with baleen, a fibrous material from the mouth of Bowhead whales. Most ivory and whalebone is found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition on St. Lawrence Island, and helps sustain their proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

"Tuugkaq" which is harpoon head in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This is a fine carving. It's carved from the ivory tusk of a walrus. The piece shows subtle colors and textures of the tusk. The center of the tusk is a light gold/tan color with a rich mottled texture, which can be faintly seen running through the center of the piece, not apparent in the photos. The outer portion of the tusk is cream colored which makes up the piece.

This style of a harpoon head was used for the taking of seals, small walrus and small whales, belugas. They would embellish the harpoon head with the animals they hunted, a way to honor and give thanks to the spirit of the animal. The upper part of the piece has a Beluga whale with a Yupik Hunter next to it. The hunter is being transformed into a Beluga Whale. There are two beluga whales on the bottom of the harpoon. All of the animals have inlaid baleen eyes. The harpoon blade is also baleen from the mouth of bowhead whales, they strain food through it. The harpoon head would mount on the end of a spear and would detach under the fat and skin of an animal. A rope made from walrus hide was run through the hole which attached to a seal skin float bag.
Glen's initials are under the whale's tail. It measures 3 5/8 inches long, 1 1/8 inches wide and the ivory is 5/8 inches thick.

This fine carved harpoon head would make a real unusual addition to a collection and the subject of many conversations, something truly unusual! It could even be made into a necklace.

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