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Walrus Ivory Seal and pup by Yupik Eskimo Carver Charles Slwooko AK


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by Charles Slwooko 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 Charles Slwooko.

This very nice Northern Fur seal with her pup were carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus by Charles Slwooko 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 Siberian Yup'ik 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 Russia.

Charles has carved for many years and is a master carver. He carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whalebone, and trims with baleen from Bowhead whales. Much of the walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are 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 ancient culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

Northern Seal or "Neghsaq" in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This is a fine example of Native Alaskan Yup'ik art. This ivory seal was carved from the tusk of a walrus. The center of the tusk is a mottled light golden/cream color, while the outer portions consists of cream colored with a pure white outer layer, hence the color variations. The mottled center can be seen on the lower half of the body. The body is from the cream colored ivory as is the pup. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it.

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. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also really like ivory!

Charles initials are on the bottom. The large seal measures 1 7/8 inches long, 3/8 inch wide and 3/4 inches high at the head.

This is a very nice piece and would make a great addition to a collection or a nice unique gift for someone with an eye for something unusual from one of the most remote areas of the U.S.

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