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Whale Bone Polar Bear w/ Cub Alaska Yupik Eskimo Art by Wilson Oozeva


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by Wilson Oozeva of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from old whalebone into a Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Wilson Oozeva.

This stunning Polar Bear with cub was carved from partially fossilized whale bone from a bowhead whale by Wilson Oozeva 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 native language is spoken on both the Russian and U.S. sides 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.

Wilson has carved for many years and is a master carver. He carves from ivory tusk of walrus and whalebone and trims them with baleen. His carvings are featured in a book titled: Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea by Dale Kessler. Most ivory and whalebone is found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition on St. Lawrence Island, it helps sustain their ancient proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

Polar Bear with Cub - This beautiful Polar Bear, or "Nanuq" in the Siberian Yup'ik language, is a fine example of Yup'ik art. This carving shows subtle colors and rich texture of whale bone. It was probably a large vertebrate of a bowhead whale. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material in the mouth of bowhead whales, they strain food through it. This is the nurturing bear, mother bear with a cub. The bone was found in the old village of Gambell, it was buried for centuries and took on a rich patina and will continue to shed sand. Whale bone is very porous and light weight.

The Polar Bear was symbolic of a powerful hunter, as in the old days the only way to take a Polar Bear was with a spear. "Nanuq" was considered the Father of the Yup'ik people. Polar Bear Claws were mounted close to the entrance of their house to ward off evil spirits and they also had therapeutic qualities, such as a cure for a headache. People called upon the spirit of "nanuq" to witness their oaths.

Wilson Oozeva's signature is carved on the bottom. This unique rendition of a Polar Bear would be a great item for conversation and display, and a real unusual gift. It measures 7 1/4 inches high, 7 1/4 inches wide and 7 3/4 inches front to back. This is a beautiful piece.

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