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Poet shared his life-changing journey as ambassador for BC Culture Days


SURREY —Stilt walkers, poets, artists, musicians and more buzzed about the council chambers at Surrey’s new City Hall midday last Thursday as the community kicked off the province-wide Culture Days festival.

Among the prolific talent was Kelowna-based poet Rawle Iam James, who instructed a “word play” workshop with elementary school-aged kids and did a live reading of his poem “Rainbow Culture” at the event.

James, a business-man turned poet and spiritual coach, came to Surrey to represent Kelowna as an ambassador for BC Culture Days.

“I spent 20-something years in the business world … experiencing different levels of successes and failures,” James told the Now, explaining that he originally came from Toronto where he was a recruiter.

“I had an epiphany in late 2001, and saw myself in this new light and moved out here to B.C. It’s just been a progression of where I followed a different path, and now I follow the path of … using arts and culture as a way of helping people to awaken to (the) life and beauty within each other. For me, poetry is one of the ways that I do that, and then connecting with other artists and creating space for other artists, so they can shine. I like to help do that as well.”

James is the founder of the Inspired Word Café, a series that encourages poets, musicians and other wordsmiths to share their work in a monthly event. The series has been going strong for the past five years, James said.

“That’s what really opened the door for me to do Culture Days and all the other things that I do,” he said.

Now helping others to “open the door” to their own creativity, James touts the importance of keeping cultural festivals like Culture Days alive.

“I think arts and culture beyond the opera and the ballet reminds people of the creativity that exists in all of us,” he said. “I think we get so bogged down in trying to just abide life, trying to make money so we can put food on the table that we forget about the creativity that exists in all of us. I’m not talking about painting to make money or writing poetry to make money, just the creativity of life and allowing that to flow and to expect it.”

With the Culture Days weekend kick-off last Thursday was the launch of the “Say AH” branding for Arts and Heritage in Surrey, which “promotes the city’s contemporary art gallery, state of the art civic theatres, heritage attractions, museum exhibitions, archival collections and public art installations.”

“People naturally want to express themselves and when you create a safe environment for them to do so, they will jump on it. That’s in my experience and I think that’s why the Inspired Café has lasted five years,” James said.

The Culture Days festival showcased community arts from Sept. 26 to 28. Five-hundred-and-forty culture-related events happened across the province over the weekend, including workshops, discussions, collaborative art projects and tours.