Revisiting the People of Sakha

(Click on any image to enlarge)

Back in June, 2014 I posted a story about the people of Sakha who visited our area for a couple of weeks as part of a larger celebration of the Russian heritage of this area and that of Fort Ross.  These Master Carvers from Yakutsk, the capital city of the Sakha Republic in Siberia, were carving ceremonial hitching posts, called a Serge (pronounced sayr-gay), which were ultimately installed in the Gualala County Park.  These folks are descendants of the of the Sakha people who first came to the North Coast of Sonoma to work the settlement in Fort Ross during the Russians brief occupation there from1812-1842.

I spent an afternoon with these visitors, with their permission, and enjoyed an intimate look at their process of carving these beautiful structures.  I wanted to revisit some of my images through the lens of B&W because I think it captures a different perspective of these people and how they worked together, and as individuals.  They spoke little or no English so I pretty much stayed out of their way and used my 70-200mm lens to capture the action from a bit of a distance.  I was able to communicate through head nods where I was OK to be and they seemed quite willing to just do their work and ignore my presence.

Sakha Carver working on the Serge

Carving the Serge

The first two images (above) captures one of the younger men carving the intricate scroll work on the main Serge post.  After he lays out the scroll pattern free-hand on the post (which is no small task if you think about it…it all has to come together evenly on all sides of the post), he uses a “V” chisel to impart the scroll grooves up and down the pole.

Sakha Elder

Working on a Saddle

Consulting the Elder

A meeting of the Minds

The next image is one of the elders who, at least for the time I was there pretty much floated from work station to work station making himself available for consultation.  He never interrupted, and always listened quite intently as he was consulted.  In fact, he is present in the next three images as well.  His presence always seemed welcome and he was consulted often.  He also seemed calm and quite sure that all was going as planned, even though they were under a pretty tight timeline.  This guy did not seem the easily rattled type.


Young Sakha Woman sampling our local grains

There were women in this group as well.  This young Sakha woman appeared to be gathering some of the native grasses growing around the work area at the Park where the Serges were being made.  She was actually tasting some of the grains as I shot this picture.  Everyone seemed to have a part to play.

Carved Horses

The Serges Installed

The last two images show some of the close-up carvings of the ornamental pieces that also became part of the Serge.  The prominent horse heads can also be seen in the last image of the installed Serges.  Horses also figured prominently in their culture.  You can also see some of the saddle work in the 4th image above.  These folks were master carvers and master saddle/metal workers as well.

So I hope you enjoyed this revisit.  The Serges are still a prominent feature as you enter the Gualala Park entrance, and seem to keep vigil over our estuary.  I hope they come back again in the near future.


Equipment:  Nikon D3s; Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens.


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