Learning Forum: Tales of Ivory
December 8, 2019 2:00 pm - 3:00 pmLearning Forums are thought-provoking presentations on a wide variety of topics. Each program features a 45-minute presentation, followed by an open forum with questions and discussion about the topic.
This week, Alaska Native artist Ben Pungowiyi presents, “Tales of Ivory.”
For thousands of years, Alaska Native carvers utilized Pacific walrus, fossil mammoth, and mastodon ivory to produce survival tools for the difficult - and often hostile - Arctic environment.
In the late 19th century, a marketplace for ivory objects and art emerged, and over time, it became an important economic resource for local artists. However, efforts to curb the trade of illegally harvested elephant ivory have negatively affected Alaska Native communities that rely on sales of walrus ivory carving to sustain their local economies and culture.
This talk explores Alaska Native ivory carving history and contemporary issues, which are also being highlighted in an exhibition at the Indian Arts and Crafts Board’s Sioux Indian Museum, called "Song of the Sea," from Oct. 25, 2019 to Jan. 20, 2020.
Pungowiyi, an enrolled member of the Native Village of Savoonga, is a skilled carver whose artistic career began at age 6 under the tutelage of his grandfather, Donald Pungowiyi. As he progressed through elementary school, his father Ivan Pungowiyi and elder Edwin Noongwook helped him further develop his skills.
After attending high school in Fairbanks, Ben joined the army, eventually returning to his home in Savoonga in 2006.
Pungowiyi's experience hunting sea mammals since childhood gradually inspired him to begin carving walruses. He excels in depicting them, and his incredibly lifelike and anatomically detailed walrus sculptures are highly prized by collectors today. He also works in fossilized whalebone, creating large and elegant works of contemporary art.
Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, half-off for members. Call 605-394-6923 to reserve tickets.
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Theater map below. Seats marked ADA indicate wheelchair accessibility. Blue seats indicate space for foldout chairs, but those with ADA requirements take first priority.
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