Grandmother Walrus

Alder, Ebonized Alder, Willow, Driftwood, Caribou Antler, Pigments, Imitation Sinew

This piece was started in 2017, but the original yua (inner human spirit) began cracking around the edge during the drying process, so I removed it and waited for inspiration to strike so I could finish the piece. I finally saw a photo of a mask recovered from the Nunalleq archaeological dig site in southwestern Alaska, which is focused on recovering artifacts that are being revealed through erosion driven by climate change, and I carved my own version. The sticks on the side are inspired by similar features on old masks, said to represent labrets, which were commonly worn by both women and men. I chose to use driftwood instead of straight sticks hanging down, because there are no trees along the coast of southeast Alaska and driftwood was necessary for survival, just as our elders’ teachings are necessary for our cultural survival.

-Jennifer Angaiak Wood, 2020