By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – With the cold weather upon us and the holidays right around the corner, it is the ideal time to relax with colouring books that are both beautiful and culturally relevant. Covid is also keeping us at home these days and colouring has proven to be an excellent stress reducer for people of ages. Colouring it Forward colouring books, the brainchild of Algonquin Metis artist Diana Frost, are a great way to learn more about Indigenous cultures and spend quality time at home.
Colouring It Forward is actually a social enterprise – it is part business (Colouring It Forward Inc) and part not-for-profit organization (CIF Reconciliation Society) that is aimed at facilitating Indigenous education and awareness and promoting reconciliation.
“Colouring It Forward began as a series of colouring books,” explained Frost, who launched the enterprise about four years ago. “I worked with two Indigenous artists and an Elder. The intent was to share the beautiful things, to create books that heal and books that teach, books that highlight Indigenous culture, pay respect to traditional values and honour the wisdom, words and teachings by the Elders.”
The company has been growing steadily but this year, in 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has impacted the way the enterprise is run.
“We’re doing a lot of partnerships and collaborations with different organizations,” explained Frost, “webinars and networking with Indigenous tourism Alberta – and another organization called How She Hustles. Those have been pretty neat because they were able to put my project in front of some new people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met.”
“And then this year we got into 12 Staples stores in Ontario. We’re in a number of other stores in Ontario as well, but that was kind of nice.”
The company began with a simple dream – a literal dream. Just as she was winding down in her career in Engineering, she had a dream one night that she was going to sell Indigenous-made colouring books. Then a few months later she was let go from her work which caused her to do some soul searching and take initiative.
The rest is history.
Although the process for the colouring books varies book to book, each one is created out of heavy collaboration between Frost, artists, and Elders in order to create something fresh, beautiful, and educational. “Usually I meet with one artist, who then guides me to other artists and Elders,” Frost said. “For the future books, because I’m going to be making more, the process might change to something like a call-for-artists.”
This year, a calendar has been built in collaboration with 13 different Indigenous artists from all around Turtle Island and features a message from Blackfoot Elder Joyce Healy. Months have been translated into the Indigenous language of the artists, along with recommendations of actions to take for reconciliation, and of course, colouring images.
The calendar, among other products created by Colouring It Forward, is available for purchase online now.
Every book, calendar or other item also includes a donation to a grassroots project. Some current projects that Frost and her company donate to are the Orange Shirt Day Society; Awo Taan Healing Lodge, an emergency shelter for women and children in Calgary; and Indspire, an Indigenous-led registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada.
Diana generously provided two images for Alberta Native Readers to enjoy. Get your colour colouring pencils, markers or crayons, take a deep cleansing breath and relax with these beautiful images. Send us a copy of your finished product to our facebook page @ Alberta Native News.
For more information visit colouringitforward.com.