Charlie James

Charlie James (Yakuglas)
Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwagiulth) 1867-1938

Model Totem
Red Cedar

 

Charlie James, also known by his ceremonial name, Yakuglas, was a pathbreaking carver and painter whose legacy inspired the work of later renowned artists such as his stepson Mungo Martin, granddaughter Ellen Neel, and Henry Hunt. During the early part of his career, he created works primarily for ritual use within Kwakwaka’wakw society. Later, in the 1920s, his art found a broader audience as he produced more small-scale works and paintings. He was highly inventive in his use of color and form. During a period of severe oppression of the First Nations people in Canada, he was an activist as well as a prolific artist. His life story is the subject of Ronald W. Hawker’s book, Yakuglas’ Legacy (University of Toronto Press, 2016), in which Hawker describes how Charlie’s shift to contemporary art forms allowed the artist to make a critical statement about the vitality of Kwakwaka’wakw culture.