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Walrus Ivory Humpback Whale by Siberian Yupik Carver Edwin Cambell


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by Edwin Cambell 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 Edwin Cambell.

This beautiful Humpback Whale was carved from an old ivory tusk of a Walrus by Edwin Cambell 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 Siberia.

Edwin 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. Whalebone is 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 rich and 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. Edwin carved this nice Humpback 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 tan patina. The center of the tusk has a light golden colored rich mottled texture and outer portions are a smooth cream. This Humpback was carved from the outer portion of the tusk and shows tan and white colors and touch of the mottled center on its snout, producing a nice affect. The eyes are inlaid baleen; a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it.

In the Siberian Yup'ik culture the Humpback whale was a source of food, tools and building materials. The taking 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. The Siberian Yup'ik people have lived in the Bering Straits for thousands of years. This harsh Arctic region is an extremely challenging area to live in, yet there is an abundance to be had from the land and sea. Hunting and gathering were the basis of survival and their culture and continues today. The times of the year offer a variety of hunting.

Care of walrus ivory includes avoiding hot dry locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Give it an occasional light coating of mineral oil or baby oil, put it on a cloth first or use a q-tip. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!

Edwin signed his initials on the bottom. The whale measures 1 5/8 inches long, 3/8 inch wide and stands 5/8 inches high at the tail fluke.

It's a nice piece and would make a real unique gift or nice addition to a collection for someone who collects whales. Something out of the ordinary and truly unique from a very remote area of the U.S.

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