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Walrus Ivory Sperm Whale by Yupik Eskimo Carver Moses Soonagrook AK


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by Moses 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 Moses Soonagrook.

This beautiful Sperm Whale was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus by Moses 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. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia.

Moses 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. He is the eldest son of the Soonagrook family of carvers. His father William Sr., brothers Billy Boy and Ladd are well known carvers in Alaska. Their work is featured the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Airport collection and in many public, private collections and featured in a book titled Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea by Dale Kessler. His son Robert is learning to carve. Most walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are 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.

Sperm Whale or "Manulek" - which is Sperm Whale in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful Sperm whale was carved from an old ivory tusk of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell. The center of the tusk has a light golden colored rich mottled texture which can be seen on the upper part of the body. The cream color makes up the body. It's mounted on an "Ooziva" or whalebone disk with a baleen pin. An Ooziva is a backbone disk probably from a bowhead whale, equivalent to our backbone disk. Traditionally these were carved into dishes, seal oil lamps and spirit masks. The eyes are inlaid baleen; a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it.

In the old Siberian Yup'ik culture the Sperm Whale was avoided by the hunters as it was an aggressive whale and would turn on the hunters and flip their boats. The taboo of the Sperm Whale continues today. Sperm Whales are found in increasing numbers in the rich Arctic feeding grounds. One summer day while setting on a beach on the North side of the island everywhere I looked out in the ocean I could see whales breaching, there had to have been thousands, it looked like a bowl of minnows!

Care of ivory 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 first, avoid acid based oil such as lemon oil. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory and bone!

Moses's signed his first name and last initial on the bone base. The whale measures 2 7/8 inches long, 1 1/2 inches high at the peg and 7/8 inches wide at the forward flukes. It's a very beautiful piece and would make a real unique gift. Something out of the ordinary.
Buy it Now!(#1104)