This is a "mingqaq," which means "coiled grass basket" in the Yup'ik language. It was made by Agnes Tommy in Newtok (Yup'ik name: Niugtaq), a small village on the Ningliq River in Alaska. In a Los Angeles Times newspaper article about climate changes in Newtok, Agnes Tommy was mentioned; in 2004 when the article was published, she was "probably 82."

Made of local grasses, the globe shaped basket has a knob top on the lid that serves as a handle. There are geometric designs, spaced around the basket, that are composed of red and brown dyed grass. Measuring 10 1/2 inches tall with a 30 inch circumference around the equator (about 9 inches across), it rests on a 4 1/2 inch diameter base. It weighs 3/4 of a pound and is in very good condition. Around the upper rim there are a few areas of missing stitches (shown) and the dyes have faded, more in some areas than in others. The lid fits snugly and the basket displays handsomely.

Accompanying the basket is a typed information card from Arctic Travelers Gift Shop in Fairbanks, Alaska, established in 1955. It describes the process of making the basket from the viewpoint of a native weaver. There is also a hangtag from the shop, identifying the artist as Agnes Tommy and the place of origin as Newtok. The tag also guarantees that the basket is a genuine, handcrafted Alaska-made item.

>>>Newtok made the news frequently over the last 20 years, due to the twin effects of erosion and melting permafrost on their land. In 2019, 18 families were the first to move from Newtok to the new village of Mertarvik, located across the river, which is expected to be completed by 2023. Studies have shown that large parts of Newtok will become part of the river in the next 5 years or so.

RL 5330

RL 5330
Folk Art

Folk and Fine

Alaska Hand Coiled Lidded Basket by Yup'ik Native Agnes Tommy


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