Indigenous artist from small-town Alberta 'honoured' to showcase work in Germany

An aboriginal artist from Crossfield, Alta., got a big surprise when she checked her email a few weeks ago.

"I was reading this email at 11 at night thinking, 'Is this spam? Is this a scam?' I read it five or six times and then thought 'ok this looks legit,'" Dumont laughed.

The email was an invite from the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada to be part of a major trade show event in Germany at the Canadian embassy in Berlin.

Dumont, whose family is from the Onion Lake Cree Nation north of Lloydminster, Alta., has to paint three Indigenous dancers on a piece of linen stretched over a log framework in front of guests.

"I'm told the Calgary Stampede Indian princess is one of them and two other Indigenous dancers — one is another jingle dancer and the other is a male traditional dancer," said Dumont.

"I'm painting them in front of 300 Germans," she said, laughing.

She gets about three hours to spend on the piece. Some of her more detailed works take as long as 40 hours to create.

Dumont has been an artist since childhood but didn't start painting full time until leaving a career in the oil and gas industry in 2014. She's also a powwow dancer, and will be taking her regalia with her to Germany.

She paints using using a technique called pointillism, which is a painstaking process using small, raised dots to create a colourful and textured image.

Dumont has a store and gallery in Didsbury, Alta., where she showcases her own work alongside dozens of other emerging and established Indigenous artists from across Canada.

The surprise invitation comes after a busy year for Dumont. She won Didsbury's business of the year award in 2017 and received a grant from the Indigenous Tourism Association to help fund her work as an artist and businesswoman.

"It's funny how life is a circle, I was promoting Aboriginal awareness within the corporate environment for years, showcasing the beauty of our arts and culture, traditions and our history — our true history, that's not taught in schools — and now here I am doing it full time," said Dumont.

"I don't know how they picked me out of 100s of artisans but I'm overwhelmed and honoured to be selected for this," she said.

The event in Berlin is about Canada showcasing Indigenous culture to big players in the tourism industry.

"We really want to feature what we consider to be new and exciting cultural presentations, that includes artists and dance," said Keith Henry, president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada.

"We're trying to promote Indigenous tourism and really make Canada an Indigenous destination by sponsoring events and featuring Indigenous culture in any way we can at these events," said Henry.

Food is a big part of the event too, with Indigenous chefs like Bill Alexander, executive chef at the Grey Eagle Hotel and Casino on the Tsuut'ina Nation west of Calgary flying to Germany to take part.

Dumont says the artwork she creates will stay in Germany.

She leaves for Berlin on Tuesday.

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