“My mother is Kwakwaka’wakw, and my late dad, Larry (Sandy) Jacobson, was from Knights Inlet (Kliquit), so we are Kwakwaka’wakw. My dad’s late auntie was Tlingit, so I am also Tlingit from Alaska. Kwakiutl ancestry is a lot of strength for me… to honour and to care about and to give me the strength to be an artist and to be able to talk to people who are also artists, and present myself in that way… I have inherited some really beautiful stuff that gives me strength and it helps me find my way through [life].”
Jonathan is a versatile artist who expresses his culture through many different art forms. “I am learning to weave, and I love to weave. I think my Tlingit ancestry is showing in my weaving… I dance, I sing, I’ve drummed all my life… I love being a part of the drum and it brings out the reason for the mask and the reason for the song and the owner of the mask. When I drum songs, I become Kwakiutl and use Kwakwala language… To be Kwakiutl, I have to think outside of myself and be greater and have a respect and love for one another.”
Family is the source of strength and inspiration in Jonathan’s life. He believes that being an artist is one of the best ways to care for his children. “Both my daughters are amazing Kwakwaka’wakw and Tlingit people… They are my teachers and I’ve never loved life so much as since my children have been born. And that’s why my responsibility as a Kwakiutl artist is so huge and why I need so much help and support with it… so I can evolve even more and use those medicines in a really positive and healthy way, and keep on giving it away and not really worry about the monetary value that comes with being an artist… I just focus on gifting, and caring, and kindness – the real Kwakiutl way. I’ve inherited that but I know my Mother is the one that is teaching me that through prayer.”
Jonathan’s late father, Larry Jacobson, was a carver who supported his family through his art. “It was the smell of the cedar that grabbed me. I woke up one day and they started moving some plaques and some totem poles…I followed the smell and I went all the way down to the basement where my dad was carving and I went, ‘WOW! Oh my goodness, I love, that!’…and I wanted to go to work right away because I connected with the amazing smell of yellow cedar. I got drawn in by the smell of the wood.
“Carving put food on the table for our family, and it made me realize that cedar was so important for our lives. It still is today. Now my life is just surrounded by cedar, it’s in my every being.
“I know that the cedar is an amazing gift… It is a tree that comes from the ground and it’s part of our tradition. It’s part of our culture, it’s part of our life. But, when I put my spirit, my Kwakiutl spirit into succeeding and [carving]… then I am gifting it to the world. When I put my design on the drum…then it becomes a gift. I have to take responsibility for that.”