14 July 2023

Pormpuraaw and Aurukun celebrate with major awards at CIAF

| Sarah Martin
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Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch presented Aurukun's Janet Koongotema with the Premier's Choice Award at CIAF. Photo: Paul Furse Frontrow Foto

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch presented Aurukun’s Janet Koongotema with the Premier’s Choice Award at CIAF. Photo: Paul Furse Frontrow Foto

CAPE York artists shone at the seventh annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair art awards, with Aurukun Elder Janet Koongotema scooping the coveted Premier’s Award for Excellence, while Pormpuraaw won the Art Centre prize for the second time.

Three major art awards, each with a hefty cash prize, were announced as part of the opening ceremony at the Cairns Convention Centre on Thursday night.

Claiming the Innovation Award for his art that weaves traditional and contemporary methodologies was Darren Blackman, who is currently an artist-in-residence at the Aurukun Wik and Kugu Arts Centre where Ms Koongotema paints.

Pormpuraaw Art Centre was lauded for the second time with the Art Centre Award, with proud senior artist Syd Bruce Shortjoe exhibiting artworks showing rituals performed at Laura Dance Festival a week ago.

“I’ve got six ritual paintings that are all about dancing,” Mr Shortjoe said.

“I’ve been to every CIAF since the fair started, and it’s very special for different communities to come together.

“Most of the people here I know, sometimes it’s the only time of the year we meet up with friends and family from different communities.”

Pormpuraaw's Syd Bruce Shortjoe has exhibited at CIAF every year. Photo: Waratah Nicholls

Pormpuraaw’s Syd Bruce Shortjoe has exhibited at CIAF every year. Photo: Waratah Nicholls

Mr Shortjoe, who is also songman for Pormpuraaw’s Kutubi Gura Buna dance troupe, has travelled overseas and spoken in front of the United Nations in New York in 2017 about the importance of environmental protection.

“It wasn’t really scary, you have to be strong to share your story,” he said.

“You have thousands of eyeballs in front of you but you just have to think they all want to know more about you and hear what you’re saying.

“I was educating them about the ghost nets and what it does to our marine life.”

Art is a relatively new skill for the respected community leader, who is president of the Pormpuraaw Art Centre management committee.

“I’ve been painting and making ghost net art for maybe 15 years now.

“We have a very busy art centre, everybody from the community goes there, painting about their culture, their country or whatever they see, they paint.”

He said the art centre was an important part of the community and preserving the area’s culture.

“It’s something special, educating the young ones, going out on country and educating them there as well, finding white clay and ochre to use in our art.”

The 3D Design, Sculpture and Installation Award, Emerging Art Award and People’s Choice Award will be announced at the art fair closing ceremony on Sunday 16 July.

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