18 July 2023

Cape York culture showcased at annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

| Sarah Martin
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Pormpuraaw's Syd Bruce Shortjoe has exhibited at CIAF every year. Photo: Paul Furse Frontrow Foto

Pormpuraaw’s Syd Bruce Shortjoe has exhibited at CIAF every year. Photo: Paul Furse Frontrow Foto

CAPE York’s art, fashion and culture shone brightly at the 14th annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, with many of the major prizes going home with proud locals.

Aurukun Elder, 86-year-old Janet Koongotema, took home the coveted $25,000 Premier’s Art Award for Excellence.

Pormpuraaw Arts Centre won the $10,000 Art Centre award, with local artist Mylene Holroyd awarded the $5000 Emerging Art award for her positive monoprints depicting community life on the Cape.

Torres Strait artist Toby Cedar, now based in NSW, won the 3D Design, Sculpture, Installation award, while Bamaga’s Douglas Tamwoy was the crowd favourite, taking the People’s Choice award at his first-ever CIAF.

The only non-Cape artist to take home a prize was south-east Queenslander Darren Blackman, who won the coveted Innovation award and took home $10,000 for his boundary-pushing works which combine new and traditional methodologies.

Thousands attended events across Cairns during the four-day fair, with five of the nine ticketed events a sell-out, and all events exceeding ticket sales targets.

Among the sold-out events were two fashion shows, with bold designs by Wujal Wujal artists Lila Creek, Anne Nunn, Doreen Collins and Junabel Doughboy featuring prominently.

CIAF artistic director Francoise Lane said the fair proved there was an increasingly strong appetite for immersive First Nations arts and culture experiences.

“I am proud that together we lifted artistic and public programming to a new and unprecedented level, all while capturing the attention and imaginations of visitors,” she said.

“CIAF is such a powerful platform for storytelling, truth-telling, knowledge sharing and an inclusive meeting place for cultural exchange of two very distinct and diverse cultures.”

While final sales figures from the CIAF art fair and markets were still being compiled at the time of publication, organisers said they were expected to surpass the $1 million mark set at last year’s event.

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