by Moses Soonagrook of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea
This elegant beluga whale was carved from the lower jawbone 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 Bowed 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. His son Robert is learning to carve. 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.
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 rich and proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.
"Puugzaq" which is Beluga Whale in the Siberian Yup'ik language. Moses carved this elegant Beluga Whale from the lower jawbone of a walrus found in the old village of Gambell. It's a real dense bone and its curving and twisting shape makes an excellent medium for carving. The eyes are inlaid baleen; a black fibrous material in the mouth of bowhead whales, they strain food through it. It's mounted on a jawbone base with a baleen pin. It’s mounted with a baleen pin on an "ooziva", a backbone disk from a bowhead whale, equivalent to our backbone disk. It was found in the old village of Gambell. Traditionally these were carved into dishes, seal oil lamps and spirit masks.
Beluga’s are found in the coastal areas of Alaska, not generally open ocean whales. They are very gregarious and travel in large pods. They feed on salmon and frequently become stranded at low tide. They have adapted and simply wait for the next incoming tide. The beluga or white whale represents the feminine side of human nature, the gentle and caring, deeply intuitive, a trait that is the foundation for lasting leadership.
Care of bone includes avoiding extremes in temperature change; give it an occasional light coating of baby oil or mineral oil, put it on a cloth or a Q-tip, avoid an acid based treatment such as lemon oil, and avoid hot dry areas such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Remember, our cats, dogs and pet birds also like jawbone!
Moses signed the side of the base, a photo of Moses will be included with the piece. The beluga measures 9 inches long, 3 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches thick. It stands 4 1/2 inches high. This a real fine piece carved by an Eskimo carver from a very remote area of the world. It would make a great gift from Alaska or a nice addition to a collection.
Buy it now!