#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Can you touch the North with your hands? Yes, you can. Paths to protected areas, the loons’ flight and even the northern lights… The beauty of the Taimyr peninsula has long been shown by northern craftsmen in their works – panels made of reindeer skin and beads, patterned embroidery with fabrics and furs. A mammoth tusk and deer horn in the bone carvers’ hands turn into a real work of art.
Bone carving is the oldest occupation of the Far North people. Vyacheslav Beti, a Dudinka resident, began to show interest in the ancient art as a child: he sculpted toys from plasticine, tried to carve figures out of wood, snow and ice. Gradually, the hobby grew into a work of life. Vyacheslav received a special art education in Norilsk. And today he is the winner of not only Russian, but also world carving competitions and exhibitions.
In 2019, the northerner won the Grand Prix at the II World Bone Carving Art International Festival. In 2020 he took third place in Moscow at the Treasures of the North competition. And on the very eve of the New Year, Beti received a special prize at the Taimyr Workshop – 2020 festival in Dudinka.
His work is amazing – there are trees and rivers, partridges and pikes… Everything is carved of a mammoth tusk. Each figurine in the composition is thought out to the smallest detail.
“It took me almost six months to do this,” says the master. “I get my ideas from fairy tales and legends of the indigenous peoples of the North. This time I decided to take as a basis a story recorded once from the words of a Dolgan narrator. It is about how partridges and pikes started fighting each other, armed with bows and arrows”.
It’s amazing how the northern peoples gave explanations for the simplest things.
“It was a long time ago, when people understood animals, and animals understood people…” the bone cutter begins his simple tale. “The partridges were considered the most warlike in the tundra – their arrows were the sharpest and the bows were the most accurate. Even the predators were afraid of them. It was summer all year round, and all the animals had enough food.
But one day the sun stopped warming well and it became cold in the tundra, and snow fell. All the partridges gathered for a great meeting: “We are starving, however, we must do something, otherwise we will all perish!” The birds thought for a long time, and then the wisest of the partridges said: “I know where there is a lot of food – near the shore of a large lake. There is much berry there, but you can’t eat it. Pikes are not allowed to graze on their territory”.
The banks of rivers and lakes were considered fish territory. But nothing to do, they flew to feed to the a large lake shore. While they were eating berries and willow buds, making noise, the most important pike emerged and said menacingly: “We will fight with you!”
And many pikes with bows and arrows sailed to the shore of the lake. They began to shoot at the partridges, and those on their chests had strong protection from arrows, only their legs were not protected.
The partridges did not flinch, were not frightened, gathered in a huge flock and began to cast their precise bows from above. And the pikes also had strong bibs against arrows, just their backs were not protected.
They fought for a long time. Finally, the main pike said: “We have run out of arrows, we should probably stop fighting. We live in water anyway, and you live on land. Live now along the shores of our lakes”. At the same moment, the arrows of the partridges grew into the backs of the pikes and turned into double bones, and the arrows of the pikes grew into the legs of the partridges and also turned into fork-shaped vein bones.
And so the most brutal war between partridges and pikes ended. All the animals learned that partridges were not the strongest in the Tundra, and ceased being afraid of them”.
The main material that siberian bone carvers use in their work is deer horn and tusk or mammoth bone. They are brought by hunters from the tundra. Raw materials are not cheap. Nevertheless, Vyacheslav Beti doesn’t sell his works. Although buyers from Norilsk and Moscow are eager to have them. Chinese and Scandinavians show interest in the master’s masterpieces.
“There’s hardly a chance to make the same thing again,” explains the northern master.
Text: Elena Popova, Photo: Vyacheslav Beti