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Wayne Alfred is one of the most prominent Northwest Coast First Nations artists. Alfred was born and raised in the village of Alert Bay, where potlatching never stopped, even when it was banned by the Canadian Government. As a result of this defiance, the culture was not diminished, as it was in other areas, and Alfred grew up surrounded by the powerful singing and dancing of his people and by talented carvers. Alfred has been carving since he was 19 and has apprenticed under, and worked with, several important artists including Henry Hunt, Charlie George, Doug Cranmer and Beau Dick. Alfred is related to the Hunts of Fort Rupert and has the hereditary right to carve in Kwakwaka’wakw as well as in Tlingit styles. He was taught traditional stories by Blackie Dick, whom Alfred considers to be a crucial influence.
Alfred has proven himself to be one of the most important voices of Kwakwaka’wakw culture. His art looks to re-imagine, and capture the stories of his heritage and in doing so to communicate and bring forward this substantial knowledge. He does so in wide variations of forms, although he is best known for carving powerful traditional masks. Alfred is also acknowledged to be one of the best dancers and has trained his son and daughter to follow in this tradition.
Alfred has been the subject of several solo and group exhibitions. His work is included in many important public and private collections worldwide.