Ivan Rosugbu

Ivan Rosugbu (Ulchi, Nivkh) is a celebrated carver of wood and birchbark in the Ulchi tradition from the village of Bulava on the Amur River, Russian Far East. He grew up learning folklore and traditional art from his grandparents, his paternal grandmother being a prized artist whose work was collected by museums in Khabarovsk and Moscow in her day, and honed his woodcarving skills in the Bulava Museum’s traditional arts program. He and other young carvers who became the prestigious carvers of their generation studied under Dmitri Angin, who founded the woodcarving program there.

The Ulchi people are a Manchu-speaking tribe numbering approximately 800 living on the northern Amur River. They and their neighbors, the Nanai, have a proud history of high culture for over a thousand years, when their ancestors, referred to as the Jurchen people, twice ruled China: first as the Jin Dynasty and later as the Manchu. When the Jurchens adopted Buddhism, they changed their ethnonym to the Manchu, in honor of the Buddha Manjushri.  The Ulchi and the Nanai have since reverted to practicing shamanism. They share with the Ainu of Japan and Sakhalin Island the tradition of bear worship, and had until the 1960’s the same spring bear ceremony as the Ainu. Their carving and embroidery traditions are also very similar.

Ivan’s education includes a B.A. from the Khabarovsk Institute of Culture. He has exhibited widely in the Russian Far East and Moscow, and in 2011 was invited to participate in a group show of art from the Amur in the Museum of Indigenous Peoples in Manndalen, Norway, with his wife, birchbark carver Svetlana Rosugbu. This summer he exhibited his work on Sakhalin Island, and gave a master carving class to local Native people there. He has won the governor’s prize for best work among Native artists in applied art, and his work is collected by the regional museum in Vladivostok, as well as in museums in Sakhalin and along the Amur.