NATIVE ALASKAN WALRUS IVORY CARVINGS




MOSES SOONAGROOK




Transformer whale





Moses Soonagrook lives in the town of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island:



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St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, is home to the Siberian Yupik people and some of the most skilled ivory carvers in Alaska.  Surprisingly enough, Gambell is a very small town of around only 600-700 people.





Whales



Beluga Whale:

This beluga whale is carved from walrus ivory and mounted on a baleen peg held in beautiful contrast to the coppery fossilized ivory.  The whale measures approximately 3" long and 1" wide.  The eyes are inlaid baleen and the translucent mottling of the ivory tusk center is very distinctive on the left face and tail of the whale.

Beluga


Beluga



                                                Beluga

Beluga


The beluga whale bears some similarities to this ivory sperm whale carving by Soonagrook.  While the Sperm whale (on the right side) is appropriately wider than the beluga, the tails or flukes of these whales both bear the same graceful proportions and curves as seen in these photographs.

Beluga and Sperm whale

Beluga and Sperm whale





Sperm Whale:

The sperm whale, a magnificent creature, has been documented to reach as much as 90' long and 125 tons, ranking it as one of the most massive mammals in the world.  The sperm whale's head makes up about 1/3 of the whale's overall body.  The head helps the whale to dive and surface by moderating buoyancy, and certainly is a distinguishing feature separating the sperm whale from other whales.

This ivory sperm whale by Soonagrook measures 3 1/2 " long by 1 1/8" wide and is mounted upon a wedge shaped piece of walrus tusk.



Sperm whale Sperm whale

Sperm whale Sperm whale




Shaman Whale:

Shamanism and associated beliefs vary throughout different regions in Alaska, and with the arrival of Christianity much of what was once known about the shamans is lost.  But even so, one of the basic aspects of shamanism was the ability to transform into different kinds of spirit animals.  Some animals were more powerful than others and certainly, a whale transformer would be a strong spirit guide indeed.  Much of this cultural heritage continues today and while shamanism is not necessarily widely followed, transformer carvings remain a distinctive part of historical Alaskan culture.

The body of this transformer whale is carved out of an old whale rib bone and the head is of walrus ivory.  The base is a walrus jaw bone, which like the rib bone has achieved a beautiful, rich patina from lying in the ground.  The carving measures 5 1/4" long and 2 1/4 inches wide and 3 1/4 inches tall.



Transformer whale
Transformer whale
Transformer whale
Transformer whale
Transformer whale
Transformer whale
Transformer whale
Transformer whale
Transformer whale



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