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Whalebone Spirit Mask by Athabaskan Carver Wesley Owen, Alaska


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The Singer by Wesley Owen

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal whalebone into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Athabaskan artist Wesley Owen.

This traditional Eskimo mask was carved from the rib bone of a whale, probably a bowhead by Wesley Owen of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Wesley is Athabaskan and 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.

Most walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition for the Native people Alaska, it helps sustain their rich and proud culture and traditional way of life.

"Atuq" which is the Singer in the Eskimo language. Wesley carved this piece from a rib bone, probably from a Bowhead whale, and inlaid it with baleen eyes from a Bowhead whale. Traditionally these were carved into dishes, seal oil lamps and spirit masks. Wesley is real proud of his “spirit mask” series of carvings, each one is unique. This carving is about celebration of abundance in the form of music and dance and singing to adorn and nourish the spirit, and the abundance of the land and sea to provide for food, clothing and shelter. The harsh Arctic Region of is an extremely challenging area to live in; yet there is an abundance to be had from the land and sea. When the clan would gather to celebrate and share; singing, dancing and drumming were the center of the celebration.

Spirit masks are common in many cultures throughout the world, even our own at Halloween. A spirit mask is worn in sacred dance ceremonies. Wearing of the mask frees the spirit, one can be who they always wanted to be, free to dance, free to summon the spirits. When one observes a person wearing a mask, one no longer sees the person with all their known characteristics. One looks beyond the mask and sees the spirit of the person, the ceremony, the freedom of the dance; we see the spirit that was summoned.

The mask measures 2 1/4 inches wide, 5 inches tall and 1 1/4 inches thick. Wesley signed his initials on the back.

Note: Avoid hanging the mask where the hot sun will shine directly on it.

Very nice piece, rich in texture and color.

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