Legendary artist George Simon dies after battle with cancer
The legendary artist George Simon, whose 2011 discovery of raised mounds in the Berbice River could hold answers to the pre-Columbian past of the Americas, is being remembered as a “leading son of the soil.”
Mr Simon died recently after a battle with cancer. He was a recipient of one of Guyana’s highest national awards – the Golden Arrow of Achievement (AA).
The Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs said Mr Simon was Guyana’s leading artist and anthropologist who shaped the career path of many Guyanese and artists around the world during his passionate career.
“George’s paintings, murals, and sculptures have been the sites of an intense personal dialogue with the diverse sacred and spiritual traditions of Guyana, as well as other countries in which he has lived over the years,” the Ministry stated.
In 2012, Simon won the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence for his works over the years.
As part of a team of archaeologists including members from the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Florida, the Ansa Awards Committee said Simon examined a field of man-made mounds stretching hundreds of miles between the Berbice and Corentyne rivers dating 5,000 years before the present era.
“The findings provide evidence that complex, populous settlements existed in this part of the world before Stonehenge in Britain and the Pyramids in Egypt,” the Awards noted.
It said Mr Simon was educated in fine art at the University of Portsmouth and London University in the UK in fine art (printmaking, 1978) and archaeology (field and analytical techniques, 1994) respectively.
He returned to Guyana in 1978 and became an instructor at the Burrowes School of Art in Guyana and later the University of Guyana. At Burrowes, he worked closely with its founder, the acclaimed Guyanese archaeologist, artist, novelist and anthropologist, Denis Williams, and continued to work with, and be influenced by Williams at the Walter Roth Museum in Guyana.
In addition to his work as an archaeologist, Simon was also a fine artist and teacher.
His work (mainly painting) draws on First Peoples’ myth, legend, and spiritual beliefs. He has had several international exhibitions in Europe (Spain and France), New York (at the Museum of Natural History), Chad, Barbados and Montreal, Canada. But more important than his work as an artist is his work as a teacher.
In Guyana and the various countries he has visited (including Chad and Haiti) Simon has set up schools in art and English.
He has been responsible for major art training initiatives in Guyana among his own Lokono Nation, in their community of St Cuthbert’s mission, and others, like the Makushi, and has helped indigenous artists to emerge into wider attention and acclaim.