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Simon James’ Kakiutl name is “Winadzi”, which means the Raider. This name was given to him by his grandfather, Chief James Aul Sewid of the Kwicksuteniuk/Mamalelaakaka clan of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. He considers “Simon” to be a nickname given to him by his mother, Mabel Sewid James and his father, Tahnis, Simon Dick James.
Simon was born in Alert Bay, B.C. on February 18th, 1969. He moved to Campbell River at a very young age and lived there for most of his life. He moved to North Vancouver in September 1996 to attend the Vancouver Film School, Classical Animation and 3D Animation courses.
Simon started drawing at a young age and was always fascinated by the artistic styling of his people. He started carving at the age of fifteen. His ambition at the time was to dance his own mask. He soon accomplished this by dancing his own thunderbird headdress that a friend purchased from him and still keeps in his collection today. After that, he soon came to realize that people liked his artwork and became more involved in the world of carving.
Simon worked hard and learned much from his father and other carvers such as Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick. He worked with other artists such as Max Chikite and Patrick Logan and entered into the district level of competition in the provincial levels. He won awards of excellence there as well.
Simon’s carving style has been criticized by his peers and family as being wild and untamed. He takes this criticism well as he considers himself as being the same. Despite this criticism, he has been successfully dealing with the top galleries here in the Northwest Coast for several years. Simon’s work has been sold internationally and has many repeat clients. He considers his works as being on the contemporary side since they are non-traditional and non-conforming. He has done traditional pieces for himself and for traditional events such as potlatches. He believes strongly in his culture and practices. He is a dancer, writer and storyteller, and through these, he hopes that the younger generation that follows will not forget where they come from and will continue with the culture and traditions that he was taught by his ancestors before him.
Simon has been working with his friends and family to better the understanding of the native people of this land. They have traveled to several cities with the Down from the Shimmering Sky Show since it opened in the summer of 1998. They have been selected to open and close the exhibit with song dance and storytelling. The storytelling has always been important to Simon. It is this that has pushed him further into the animation industry as a producer/director of animated films. He believes that the understanding of the stories and the content and characters, as well as how to design them has given him an advantage that should help him excel in this industry.
It is Simon’s wish to continue to sing, dance, carve, paint and tell stories to educate the younger generation as his ancestors did before him. He admittedly still has so much to learn and is willing to do so clean, sober and healthy for himself, his family and the generation after him. Simon states; “Long after I am gone my works and impressions that I leave will allow me to continue to live on for as long as people enjoy that what I have given”.
The regalia of a privileged Matriarch would include wearing a frontlet as a headdress when attending special ceremonies. Frontlets are typically worn by high-ranking individuals as a display of crests and status. Often, they are decorated with materials that imply great wealth and power, such as Abalone shell and Sea Lion whiskers.
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