by Moses Soonagrook of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea
Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal Polar Bear Fur and whalebone ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Moses Soonagrook.
This stunning Eskimo Doll was made from a variety of marine mammal materials by Moses Soonagrook of Gambell, Alaska; a small Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering Straits. It's about 140 miles off shore from Nome Alaska, and about 40 miles from Russia. Their native Yup'ik language is spoken on both sides of the straits. 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. She carves from the ivory tusk of a walrus and whalebone and trims them with baleen, a fibrous material from the mouth of Bowhead whales. Much ivory and whalebone is either dug up or found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition on St. Lawrence Island, and helps sustain their ancient proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area. Moses is a well know carver in Alaska and his work is featured in a book titled: Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea by Dale Kessler.
This hunter doll is unique and one of a kind. This beautiful doll is made from a wide variety of native materials. The face, hands and spear point are ivory from the tusk of a walrus. The spear shaft is baleen, a fibrous material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. The headdress and lower trim on the parka are Polar Bear fur. The parka, trousers and mukluks are carved from whalebone. The line is sinew from seal gut. The doll is mounted on an Ooziva, a backbone disk from a bowhead whale, equivalent to our backbone disk. Traditionally these were carved into dishes, seal oil lamps and spirit masks.
Much of the ivory and whalebone is found washed up on beaches after storms. Doll making and carving are a rich tradition on St. Lawrence Island; it helps sustain their proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.
The Hunter - This beautiful doll depicts the hunter; or "Ivaghniighta" in the Siberian Yup'ik language. He's dressed in the traditional winter outfit. Note the head is protected from the extreme cold by thick protruding fur. In this outfit the hunter could survive for long periods in the extreme cold of the Arctic. The story behind the doll is about the abundance of the land and sea to provide for food, clothing and shelter. The Siberian Yup'ik people have lived in the Bering Straits for thousands of years. This harsh Arctic region is an extremely challenging area to live in, yet there is an abundance to be had from the land and sea. Hunting and gathering were the basis of survival and their culture and continues today. The times of the year offer a variety of hunting. Polar bears in the winter, whales and walrus in the spring and fall, and seals in the summer and fall. The traditional hunting weapon was the spear, and this shows the traditional point that detaches when it is imbedded in an animal. He is in a seal hunting stance and would stand motionless for hours waiting for a seal to rise up. A real test of strength and stanima.
Care of ivory, whalebone and Polar Bear fur includes avoiding hot dry locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Protect it from dust, keep it enclosed. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory and Polar Bear fur!
Moses signed the back of the Ooziva. The doll measures 11 inches high to the raised hand, 5 1/2 inches back to front and 2 1/4 inches wide.
This exquisitely beautiful piece would be a wonderful addition to a collection and the subject of many conversations. It's a fine Eskimo Doll by a Eskimo carver in a very remote part of the world and would make a great gift.
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