#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. In the Taimyr House of Folk Art, or the main chum of Taimyr, as they call it, they like to recall the story of five years ago, when a resident of Dudinka left several boxes and a bag with unique Nganasan items at the entrance to the main chum.
“Working in Volochanka, together with his father, they collected ethnographic objects all their lives. As a result, they made a collection. He decided to give it to us before leaving for the mainland as our objects do not gather dust in the windows, but continue to live. And we really use our funds not only at exhibitions, but also during numerous events”, the chum’s specialists tell.
In the main chum of Taimyr, funds are not only studied, used, but also have been digitized for a long time for an online collection. This allows everyone to access the historical heritage of the Taimyr peoples at any time.
This time Vasily Batagay, head of the main chum’s decorative and applied arts department, chose exhibits from the Unknown Author section. He is sure that the reindeer cheeks plates and the smoking pipe were made by skillful craftsmen, whose names have been lost in time. However, it is possible that the publication may help to obtain the missing information.
The Norilsk College of Arts decorative and applied arts department’s graduate, a remarkable bone carver, Vasily considers mammoth ivory cheek plates to be very rare:
“They have a unique ornament. Reindeer heads, bunny ears are clearly carved by a great master. Usually men decorate plates in a simpler way: with circles, scratching. And here there is such a competent composition, and the bone has already turned to stone, this means that it is very old. We have not yet carried out an examination, but this is the work of at least the end of the nineteenth century”.
The cheekpads, according to Vasily Batagay, are also rare because they came from the village of Hantayskoye Lake, where the Evenks and Dolgans live, and the cheekpieces themselves are of Samoyed origin:
“They were made somewhere in the Tuhard tundra or in Potapovo. The subject has clearly migrated from there”.
The expert draws attention to the fact that the cheek pads served as decoration for the deer on holidays and are not yet used in the work of the Taimyr House of folk Art, since they need conservation.
But the Nganasan smoking pipe is in a very good condition and therefore continues to live, participating in rituals. The pipe is made of brass, yellow copper and iron, decorated with engraving and inlay. Its peculiarity is that as a bowl for tobacco the master used… a part of a candlestick.
When asked whether it is a man’s or a woman’s pipe, Vasily replies that one should ask not about the gender, but about the owner’s well-being:
“Only a very wealthy person could afford a pipe. Tobacco in those days was an expensive pleasure”.
In the online collection, the cheek plates and the pipe neighbor upon the snow goggles, as the famous ethnographer Andrey Popov calls them in his research on the Nganasans. They are from the same Volochanka collection that people in the main chum like to talk about. These bronze goggles are needed by hunters in the tundra to protect their eyes from blinding light. Vasily Batagay draws attention to the fact that the eye covers are made narrow to improve visual acuity. They are usually cut into the face of the owner and trimmed with fur outside and inside.
Text: Valentina Vachaeva, Photo: Marina Peshkova, Taimyr main chum