you have 0 items in your cart

Walrus Ivory Seal by Siberian Eskimo Carver Robert Soonagrook, Alaska


Availability: In stock


by Robert Soonagrook 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 Robert Soonagrook.

This elegant hauled out seal was carved from the ivory tusk of a walrus by Robert 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.

Robert is a new carver and is well on his way to become a master carver as he has great teachers. His father Moses, grandfather William Sr., and uncles Billy Boy and Ladd 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 and featured in a book titled "Ivory Carvers of St. Lawrence Island". Robert 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.

Northern Spotted Seal or "Nuuk" or hauled out seal in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This is a fine example of Native Alaskan Yup’ik art. This seal was 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, hence the color variations. The mottled center can be seen on the left side of the body, and on the rear fluke. The cream color makes up the body and the pure white can be seen on the right side of the seal. The eyes and nose are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. There are faint black lines or temperature cracks on the back and lower sides of the piece. Temperature cracks are caused when the walrus was hauled out in life and sunning on a beach, warming their bodies and tusks, then plunging back into the cold arctic sea. Their tusks develop surface cracks and are stained black by minerals in the sea water, adding to the richness of the carving.

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 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.

Robert signed his Siberian Yupik name on the bottom, "Ayapaa". The seal measures 3 3/8 inches long, 1 1/8 inches wide and 7/8 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.

Buy it now!