Cairns cranks up for art, dance and fashion feast

The highly-acclaimed Cairns Indigenous Art Fair has launched this year’s program, with Artistic Director Janina Harding creating a broad-ranging program taking in dance, music, film, and fashion.

Welcoming crowds of more than 50,000 visitors last year, the three-day CIAF 2016 is set to be bigger and better than ever and will kick off at a spectacular opening night event on July 14.

CIAF is the ultimate platform for Queensland Indigenous artists to tell their stories and is an ethical point of sale for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Over three days it offers those who visit a unique opportunity to experience Indigenous culture, through a wonderful diversity of mediums.

The first night of CIAF 2016 features two showings of Jana Jural, the fashion performance curated by designer Grace Lillian Lee. This features a number of designers from the Far North Queensland region combining handcrafted textiles, art and fashion with performance, creating a new cultural dialogue that represents the indigenous communities of this region.

The fashion performance for 2015, Burrimbi Dulgu Bajal, was a sell-out show resulting in an invite to the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival in March 2016. Featuring more than 100 artists and some of Queensland’s most renowned Indigenous artists from remote art communities, including those from Mornington Island, Lockhart River and Pormpuraaw, along with local Cairns galleries and national commercial galleries.

The spectacular art fair features a daily program of dance and musical performance, a bustling market and a curated art exhibition, and also hosts the Cairns premiere of Spear, a film by Stephen Page, and a collection of archival films depicting Queensland Indigenous culture of past decades.

Harding aims to engage those at every level of interest in indigenous art and culture. CIAF 2016 offers a range of singular events, from a fresh take on the hugely popular art fashion performance that sold out last year, to a new social initiative focused on the art of Queensland Indigenous prison inmates, in an exhibition entitled Freedom of Expression.

Harding is also working with community-based art centres under a theme for this year’s curated collection entitled Cultural Bliss; a survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander happiness.

Harding says viewers will be able to enjoy a different understanding of the artists and their work and what defines their country and community.

Communities work like a central business district where culture is practiced, where stories are passed down and where people connect to family and interaction is the focus.

“Culture and community are not a lifestyle choice. It an expression of who the artists are,” the artistic director says.

Harding explains that artists are asked to draw inspiration from all the elements of living in community, to reveal a life that is complex, buoyant, meaningful and fun.

“As First Peoples, adversity should not challenge strength and pride. On country, with family – this is Cultural Bliss.”

Art curator Hetti Perkins is co-ordinating the 2016 Collectors and Curators program, exclusively tailored for invited participants. The program hosts representatives from private collections, major art galleries and institutions from Australia and around the world to view and buy the work of renowned Queensland artists, including Christian Thompson, Mavis Ngallametta, Rosella Namok and Fiona Omeenyo and a host of emerging artists, who will exhibit at CIAF 2016. CIAF 2016 has to date attracted interest from national and international art institutions, including the New York Metropolitan Museum.

The new CIAF event app is an innovative program feature that delivers the CIAF program, allows event-goers to create a personalised schedule for attending the event, and gives direct access tickets purchasing. It is available in iOS and Android from the App store now, and is free to download.

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland’s Backing Indigenous Arts Initiative, a program that aims to build a stronger, more sustainable and ethical Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts industry.

It is also supported through the Visual Arts and Crafts Strategy, an initiative of the Australian State and Territory Governments.

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