Immersing yourself in different cultures provides extraordinary opportunities to see through new eyes and to hear with fresh ears. It is for this reason that the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF), an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture from across Queensland, is such an exciting event in Australia’s arts landscape. Showcasing a wide array of artworks for exhibition and purchase, as well as numerous satellite exhibitions around Cairns throughout the event, the art fair provided both Jo-Anne Driessens, Arts Law’s Artists in the Black Coordinator, and I the perfect occasion to connect with friends and colleagues, independent artists, as well as Queensland’s fabulous art centre artists and staff.
During the opening event, at which we met up with some of our pro bono supporters from Minter Ellisons and Holding Redlich, I was lucky enough to meet Professor Henrietta Fourmile-Marrie AM, the patron of the CIAF and traditional owner of Gimuy (Cairns) and the surrounding areas. The foyer areas in the Convention Centre where CIAF’s opening party was held showcased the Coconut Leaf Project with seven large-scale installations hand woven by master weavers from the Torres Strait Islands. The exhibition clearly demonstrated that, far from being a dying art, weaving remains a proud and vibrant practice. In fact, throughout the weekend there were also weaving workshops in which members of the public could participate! A highlight during the 3.5 days were the many performances of dancing and song performed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across the region.
Furthering the celebrations was the 10th anniversary of the Indigenous Fashion show Woven at the Tanks. It was impossible not to love this stunning display of fashion, textiles, weaving and creativity (let’s not forget the beautiful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander models too!).
Jo-Anne and I attended most sessions of the CIAF Symposium: Weaving our future: Claiming our Sovereignty. This program was thoughtfully curated and gave us much to reflect upon, not least from those First Nations professionals working in spatial design and architectural practice. Particularly memorable, too, were presentations by Skolt Sami people of the Arctic Circle, Aimo Aikio and Mari Gouriloff and Atayal (Indigenous People of Taiwan) artist Anchi Lin, facilitated by Dr Sophie McIntyre and Francoise Lane. Finally, I must congratulate Francoise Lane on her first CIAF as artistic director – she did an amazing job and presented a beautiful, and very inclusive, CIAF event. Being in Cairns gave Arts Law an opportunity to catch up with important local stakeholders such as Arts Queensland staff, the North Queensland Regional Aboriginal Corporation Language Centre and funder FRRR, ensuring that it was a very busy and fruitful few days in balmy Cairns.