Slava Beti, Famous Taymyr Carver
Slava Beti is a well-known artist and carver from Dudinka, a small and isolated town in Taymyr region in Russia's far north, in Krasnoyarsk district of Siberia.
There are five Indigenous groups in Taymyr – nganasans, enets people, nenets people, dolgans and evenks. All of them speak Russian.
Slava identifies himself as the Evenk. In Russia, the Evenks have a population of 38,396 (2010 census).
"The Evenks traditionally were organized in clans tracing their descent along paternal lines. The members of a clan had a communal fire and invoked common ancestor spirits in their prayers. Each clan was led by an assembly of elders, including the clan shaman (whose duties included healing the sick, traveling in the spirit world, and prophesying). Notably, the word shaman is itself an Evenk word." - Britannica
Growing up near Nizhnyaya Tunguska river in Siberia, Slava had trouble studying in a public school, so his parents sent him to live with his grandpa in the wilderness of Taiga (boreal forest or snow forest).
For three years at ages 12 to 14 Slava lived in Taiga in a chum (pronounced "choom"), a temporary dwelling/wigwam used by the nomadic Uralic reindeer herders of northwestern Siberia of Russia.
There he learned how to fish and hunt, and of course, how to carve. At first, he'd carve things mostly out of necessity, like utensils (spoons and bowls), and smoking pipes for his grandpa.
Slava still has vivid memories of his time spent in Taiga and attributes it as a source of inspiration for his carvings. He says "It feels like I remember every day, as if it was yesterday".
He later applied to art college in Norilsk and got accepted on the first try.
Norilsk is an industrial city in Krasnoyarsk district, Russia, located above the Arctic Circle, east of the Yenisei River and south of the western Taymyr Peninsula.
Slava liked studying at the art college. Everything was easy for him, as by that time Slava was an already experienced painter and carver. Plus, there were only 6 guys and 60 girls.
Currently, Slava lives with his wife and their three children in Dudinka, which is only 89 km away from Norilsk.
Dudinka is a city of extremes, not only because it's so remote and cold (it borders the Arctic Ocean and temperatures there sometimes plummet to -40C).
Both Dudinka and Norilsk are “closed” cities. It is believed that there are huge mineral reserves and mining operations (nickel mostly). Even Russians can't easily travel there, at least, not without a good reason.
Apparently, Dudinka wasn't even mentioned on old Soviet maps.
Slava said that the year 2020 was declared a year of Tourism in Dudinka, though it's not clear how "closed" city is planning to bring tourists there. More about Dudinka.
Slava says that the effects of the climate change are felt even in Dudinka.
He remembers Yenisei river before was frozen 2 meters down, now it's about 1 meter. And it's more windy now, than ever before.
Slava is one of the five official full-time artists in Dudinka (a city of about 20,000 people), whose work is sponsored by the state.
Slava has been exhibiting and winning prizes at shows and exhibitions locally and across Russia, but his carvings on mammoth's tusks and deer's antlers are popular far beyond Russia.
Why mammoth's tusks? Because it's a traditional art in local Indigenous communities. Plus, mammoth's bones and tasks were always widely available in Siberia.
Slava says that mammoths lived and died in his region for millions of years, so people will be finding their remains for some time to come.
Mammoths died about 10,000 years ago, but according to the local legend, they went into hiding underneath the earth and will surface again some time in the future.
The mammoths' tusks, which could spiral to more than 13 feet are being dug up and sold to local artists, as well as to China, where they became popular as an alternative material to elephant tusks, after exporting elephant tusks was declared illegal in many countries.
Recently, too many Mammoth's remains were sold through Yakutia to China. It became a big business and Russia is now making export of mammoth's tusks more difficult.
Slava has been working with mommoth's tusks, as well as deer's antlers for many years and has an extensive collection of unique carvings. If you have interest in any of his past works, he can recreate them. He is also taking orders for commissioned work and custom orders. This is a unique opportunity to own something truly unique.