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A Drum for Houston

James Madam, with complete focus and a steady hand finishes the final brush stroke to a wing of a Canadian goose. He sits back, momentarily scrutinizes his work and with characteristic modesty holds up the drum to signify that it is complete.  

Funded through the Aboriginal Service Plan, local artists at each NWCC campus have been commissioned to construct and illustrate a traditional 15’’ drum as part of the NWCC collection.

“The brief was to incorporate a Canadian goose flying by the light of the moon with the NWCC logo embossed within it,” says James “ As gifted navigators, the Canadian goose represents the spirit of our journey as we overcome the many obstacles in our flight of learning. Geese instinctively know the way ahead and show incredible bravery, commitment and fellowship as their V shape path of determination shapes our skies each spring and fall. It is these inspiring qualities which makes the Canadian goose an ideal totem for this project, symbolizing our quest through the world of education.”

“I was commissioned,” said James “to work loosely within the brief and after some initial sketches I decided to incorporate three geese flying in a V shaped formation. From a visual perspective this helped balance the overall design allowing a sense of depth and proportion, but it also signifies the ever changing balance of life and leadership as each goose takes it in turn to lead the formation. I think the idea of teamwork, that on this journey one is never alone, is a very important message to convey.”

“You can’t beat a handmade item created by someone you know,” says Katie Humphrey, First Nation Access Coordinator for NWCC.“ There is a new level of understanding and connection to the work which brings meaning to the project that just can’t be found in a store bought object. We are honoured to have one of James’s art works displayed here at the Houston campus.”

James is a well-known aboriginal Wet suwet’en artist in the Bulkley Valley whose contribution to the 2011 totem pole stands proudly at the gateway to the Smithers campus. He has also illustrated children’s books, designed murals and contributed to a wide range of artwork projects throughout the valley. You can often find James at craft fairs and the farmers markets throughout the region where his work is very popular with locals and tourists alike.

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