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Walrus Ivory Scrimshaw Walrus by Al Aningayou of St. Lawrence Island

$245.00

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"Ayveq"


by Al Aningayou of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from a marine mammal walrus ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and is signed by Alaska Native Eskimo Scrimshaw artist Alwin Aningayou.

This fine Walrus was scrimshaw or etched onto the tusk of a walrus by Al Aningayou of Gambell, Alaska, a small Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 350 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering 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. Their native Yup'ik language is spoken on both sides of the straits.

Al has etched and carved for many years and is a master carver, he is also one of the finest etchers or scrimshaw artists in Alaska, a rare combination. 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. Much 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.

Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), meaning tooth walker), or "Ayveq" - which is walrus in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful walrus was etched or scrimshaw onto an ivory tusk of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell. The center of the tusk is a rich mottled texture while the outer portions are a smooth cream and pure white color. The rich mottled center of the tusk can be seen in the top view, the outer cream and white make up the body and a thin layer of white surrounds the cream color. Al spent many hours etching and inking the surface. Lots of fine details of the walrus.

In the Siberian Yup'ik culture the walrus was a source of food, tools and material for artwork and trading. The female hides were stretched over driftwood to make their boats called "umiaks". Walrus were generally hunted from "umiaks". Walrus will defend themselves and the herd will come to rescue a hunted walrus. Individual walrus were driven ashore with the aid of a baleen clapper, or flat piece of baleen they would slap the ocean surface with, which sounded like an Orca (Killer Whale), the enemy of the walrus. The walrus would seek land, where the hunters waited. The walrus is considered a bringer of good luck and happiness. A walrus hauled out on the ice is called "nunavak". The original surface is preserved on the back side. There are black lines or temperature cracks. Temperature cracks are caused when the walrus was hauled out and sunning on a beach in life, warming their bodies and tusks, then plunging back into the cold arctic sea. There tusks develop surface cracks and minerals in sea water stain them black, adding to the richness and authenticity of the carving. There are also lots of nicks and dents on the back side from the many sparring and battles for dominance.
Care of ivory includes avoiding hot dry low humidity locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!

Al's signature is on the lower right hand corner of the etching. It measures a little more than 1 7/8 inches high, 1 1/8 inches back to front and a little more than 1 7/8 inches wide.

This unique scrimshaw tusk would be a wonderful addition to a collection and the subject of many conversations. It's a fine etching done by a Eskimo carver in a very remote part of the US.

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