Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

WEIO Provides Ideal Setting to Learn About Native Arts & Crafts

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Cora "Umara Nupowhotuk" creates work of art that reflect her traditional ancestory.

©Bert Gildart: Cora “Umara Nupowhotuk” is originally from St. Lawrence Island and, today, she makes Caribou Masks that tell of the traditional past.

John Koweluk and Molly Hunt from Katlik make exquisitely beaded moccasins while Kenneth Frank of Arctic Village is an artist with the drums.

Because Alaska is such a huge state, many of these native arts and crafts remain unique to the culture and obscured from a more public viewing. But at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics (WEIO) held each year for four days in Fairbanks, Alaska, in July, artists arrive prepared to display and explain production. And, of course, WEIO provides a good setting in which you can make purchases, some that will last a life.

Cora “Umara Nupowhotuk” (see last photo from  July 20 post) is one of the more distant representatives of Native  art, having been reared on St. Lawrence Island, located some 40 miles off the Siberian coast. She says her mother and grandmother instructed her in the art of skin sewing. She says her work has been worn on the summit of Denali, the Antarctic and has been displayed in the Smithsonian.

Umara’s work represents the faces of traditional Siberian Yupik people. Her son harvests the caribou, she then molds the faces over one of the cedar faces she has carved. Later, she adds tattoos, representing an adornment that was once a custom among woman of her culture. She says that there are several elderly women from her village and that they have facial tattoos “similar, she says, “to those shown on my masks.

TRADITIONALLY, WOMEN ALL WORE FACIAL TATTOOS

Umara’s masks depict both men and women, though the ones of woman seemed more appealing to Janie and me. All were adorned with customary tattoos and beads, and some of the patterns she’s created represent waves, life lines, northern lights, fern leaves among others.

Men wore no facial tattoos, but they did have marks above their eye brows. “If a woman was barren her husband was allowed to take a second wife,” said Umara. “If he did, the eye brow marks tell that story.”

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CLICK ON IMAGE TO SEE ENLARGED PHOTO. L TO R: MOCCASINS, DRUM GROUP, SUSAN HOPE, KUUGMIUT DRUM AND DANCE GROUP

Mary and Francis Kakoona of Shishmaref live equally as far away. Their village is about 80 miles north of Nome, which is in the Berring Sea, and has the tragic distinction of being located on a small island that is rapidly diminishing because of global warming. “We’ll have to relocate,” says Francis, “and we’re very sad because of our history there.”

LIFE-LIKE CREATIONS

Francis hunts for seals and walruses just off the island and it is from these animals that he extracts materials for his work. “I shape the ivory,” he says, “so that it takes on a life.”

All in all about 30 artists displayed their work at WEIO, and all was of excellent quality. We would have photographed more but we had to coordinate the times we asked questions and made photographs between lulls in the Olympic competitions and, of course, during times when artists were free from sales.

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Kimberly Dullen (Miss WEIO 2008) crowns Alanna Gibson, the new Miss WEIO


Sometimes, of course, I simply photographed individuals engaged in activities that I thought projected talent. These include Susan Hope with her father’s ship made of baleen, Kenneth Frank joining a group that simply wish to be known as Soaring Eagle, drummers from Anaktuvuk Pass, and, finally, and certainly not to be excluded, the lovely Kimberly Dullen crowning the equally as lovely Alanna Gibson of Minto, the new Miss WEIO.

These young ladies are artists themselves, and do more than stand and project beauty. As well, several are talented craftpersons themselves, one of the abilities on which judges decide just who will be a Miss WEIO.

Though the contest ended this past Saturday night, I may post a few other photographs.

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THIS TIME THREE YEARS AGO:

*Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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