Wayne Alfred was born in 1958 in Alert Bay on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Alert Bay remains one of the most important artistic and culture centres on the Northwest Coast. Its isolated location protected the community from much of the effects of assimilation and remained not only a heritage village but also one of the most continually developing cultural areas on the coast. It is the home of the largest free standing totem pole in the world and the U’mista Cultural Centre which houses a major historic collection which had been returned from major museums as part of the changes to the Cultural appropriation legislation of the Federal Government.
Alert Bay has produced many of the contemporary master Kwakwaka’wakw artists including Doug Cranmer, Russell Smith, and Beau Dick. Wayne Alfred grew up in a large family with seven brothers and sisters. His family and extended family are culturally, artistically and politically active within the Nimpkish band. Wayne was exposed to tradition ceremonies and the major art pieces of such artists as Willie Seaweed, Charlie George and Bob Harris. He has been initiated into the Hamatsa ritual which is a major secret society which controls many of the winter dances and offers major rights and responsibilities to it’s members. He is a respected dancer, and began his career as an artist with an understanding of the dramatic considerations of making masks and ceremonial pieces.
Wayne moved to Vancouver in early 1986 to work with Beau Dick on the totem pole, which had been commissioned by the City of Vancouver for Stanley Park. Expo ‘86 had drawn many artists to Vancouver to work on the numerous commissions, which were intended to showcase the importance of the local indigenous art form. Wayne was involved as the second carver on many of the monumental commissions created for installation on the Expo site or sites around Vancouver.
In 1990, he returned to Alert Bay as an instructor to oversee a new carving project intended to encourage new artists.
Spirit Wrestler Gallery, 2004
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