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Walrus Ivory Polar Bear and Seals by Eskimo Carver Ladd Soonagrook

$125.00

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"Qavanguq"

by Ladd Soonagrook of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

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

This very nice Polar Bear surrounded by seals was carved from the ivory tusk of a walrus and mounted on baleen by Ladd 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, one of the most remote areas of the U.S. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia.

Ladd has carved for many years and is a master carver. His father William Sr. and brothers Billy Boy, Virgil and Moses are well known carvers in Alaska. Their work is featured the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Airport collection, the Wells Fargo Collection and private collections. Ladd's work is also featured in a book titled Ivory Carvers of the Bering Sea by Dale Kessler. 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.

"Qavanguq" which is the dream in the Siberian Yup'ik language. It's a fine example of Native Alaskan Yup’ik art. The Polar Bear and Seals were carved from the ivory tusk of a walrus. The center of the tusk is a mottled light gold/tan color, the outer portions consists of a cream to pure white colored ivory. They were carved from the outer cream colored and white. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. It's mounted on a baleen back.

The Polar Bear was symbolic of a powerful hunter in the Siberian Yup'ik culture, as in the old days the only way to take a Polar Bear was with a spear. It was considered the Father of the Yup'ik people. Polar Bear Claws were mounted close to the entrance of their house to ward off evil spirits and they also had therapeutic qualities, such as a cure for a headache. People called upon the spirit of "nanuq" to witness their oaths.

In the Yup'ik culture the seal represented the feminine aspect of life and human nature, the gentle and caring, deeply intuitive, a trait that is the foundation for lasting leadership. Seals were hunted for oil, meat and hides. The hides were made into floats and attached to a spear. The Yup'ik hunter would glide silently in their kayak up to a “U.ttug” or “seal basking on the ice”. The head of the spear would detach and the seal would be kept afloat with the seal air bag.


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 or a Q-tip first, avoid an acid based oil such as lemon oil.

Ladd signed his name on the back. The baleen back measures 6 inches wide and 6 inches high. This a real fine piece and would make a real unique gift or a great addition to a collection from one of the most remote areas of the U.S.


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(#1497)