by Norbert Thomas Sr. 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 Norbert Thomas.
This very nice Musk Ox was carved from the tusk of a walrus by Norbert Thomas 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.
Norbert 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 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.
Musk Ox or "Oomingmak" in the Siberian Yup'ik language, which means "animal with skin like a beard". This is a fine example of Native Alaskan Yup'ik art. This beautiful piece was carved from the tusk of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell. The center of the walrus tusk is a rich mottled texture with a yellowish/golden color, the outer portions are a smooth cream and pure white. The center golden yellow mottled is faintly visible on the front of the head and rear, the texture of the fur makes it difficult to see. The pure white is faintly visible on the top, again the texture makes it difficult to see.
The Musk ox or Ovibos moschatus looks like a prehistoric animal, in the winter they have very thick and long fur coats. The diet of the Musk ox is grasses, parts of willow trees and lichens. The soft under fur of Oomingmak is used by native people to create many knitted items. They use the fur of them musk ox because it is one of the warmest furs known. Native people call this under fur "Qiviut". It is eight times warmer than wool and it is much lighter too. It is even lighter than cashmere.
Care of walrus ivory includes avoiding hot dry areas like direct sun in a window or heat from a heat register. Remember our pet dogs, cats and birds really like ivory!
Norbert signed the bottom. The piece measures 3 3/8 inches long, 2 1/8 inches high and a little over 1 1/8 inches wide. It's 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.
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