Tom Akeya

Tom Akeya was born on November 9, 1960, in the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island. He is a Siberian Yupik Eskimo (Yupiuqukut or Yupik translates to real people). He attended elementary school in Savoonga and Nome-Beltz Junior and Senior High School in Nome.

At the young age of nine, Tom began to learn how to carve from his father.  As he became more proficient, he began to use carving as a way to supplement his income and his traditional subsistence lifestyle.  Tom is a subsistence hunter who hunts for walrus, seals, and birds. He joins the other villagers in the spring when they hung bowhead whales during their northward migration. He also likes to dig for fossilized or old ivory during the summer when the ground thaws.

Tom has a great talent for focusing on specific features of his animal carvings in order to convey a certain character.  Often, he will remove any extraneous detail and stylize those that are the most emotive features.  This results in an approach that is unique, yet traditional and an art piece that expresses and honors the core spirit of an animal.  Subsequently, Akeya’s animals are often viewed as approachable, quirky, inquisitive and even lovable - evoking a similar emotional spectrum to humans and indicative of our similarities. He is noted for walrus, seals, bears, narwhales with inlaid baleen spots and whales. He also carves turtles with inlaid old ivory spots. Often his carvings are made from the old ivory he digs or walrus ivory harvested through subsistence hunting.

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