Two indigenous artists from more 8,000 kilometres away are in Winnipeg to mentor local artists this week.
Australia's Benny Walker and New Zealand's Tama Waipara are in town to mentor the city's indigenous artists for Aboriginal Music Week.
"I find the people out here are incredible passionate about their people," said Walker, an indigenous singer-songwriter who has been nationally recognized in Australia. "It's great to connect with people on the other side of the world that can relate to what your people went through."
The program, partly funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, offers local artists five days of one-on-one meetings about how to break into foreign markets like Australia and New Zealand.
Waipara, a Maori musician, said New Zealand's indigenous community has a lot in common with Canada's.
"The connection is immediate and apparent. The stories link," said Waipara, who explained the Maori lost their language because of assimilation policies in New Zealand and Australia. "In some ways, I think we, the Maori, are lucky in our experience with the colonizer – silly to say that word, but when I talk to other nations and hear their pain and brutal experience, we are still going through brutal experiences now."
Waipara said working with Canadian musicians has been humbling, and he's been inspired by the work Manitoba Music is doing in the province.
Both he and Walker are hoping to pay that inspiration forward.
"If [Winnipeggers] are interested in coming to Australia, I've opened the lines of communication between myself and them," said Walker. "There is always someone who has done something for me, and I am happy to help someone else build themselves a little bit."
Because of the nature of the Canada Council for the Arts grant, Walker and Waipara can't perform at the festival.
Despite that, Waipara will make an appearance at an open mic night at The Good Will on Friday night.