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Cairns Indigenous Art Fair launches 15th anniversary program

Phoebe Blogg -

Returning for its 15th year in operation, this July the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair will reappear with a jam-packed program, brimming with talented First Nations artists, performers, fashion designers and more.

With this year's event taking the theme of 'Country Speaking', CIAF will feature this through a thread of connecting events including both the Art Awards, Fashion Performance and more.

This year is a special milestone for both the CIAF team and the artists and creatives involved in the fair.

CIAF's artistic director Francoise Lane said the Fair's anniversary season is a testament to Queensland's thriving First Nations arts and culture industry and its broader place on the world stage.

"From its humble beginnings as an Art Fair, CIAF has evolved into a multifaceted celebration of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts, culture, and fashion, featuring artists, performers, and creatives from the Torres Strait, Cape York, and Gulf communities in the north out to western communities and down to the southeast corner," she said.

Behind the scenes at CIAF. (Image: supplied)

The Fair is set to welcome more than 30,000 visitors including community members, artists, collectors, and industry practitioners who will inject a vibrant and inclusive First Nations vibe into the tropical city of Cairns.

CIAF's program will include an Opening Night Party, Art Fair, Art Market and public program of workshops including ghost net weaving, printmaking, digital drawing masterclasses as well as several children's activities.

Comprising of more than 20 free and ticketed events, CIAF will take place at Cairns Convention Centre hub as well as several key events and exhibitions enjoyed from venues within the city's cultural scape, including NorthSite Contemporary Arts at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre, Cairns Art Gallery, Court House Gallery, and Tanks Arts Centre in Edge Hill's botanical precinct.

Ticketed events include program favourites such as the Opening Night Party, two-day Symposium and cultural think tank at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre, 'Light the Fire' fashion performances as live music performance, 'No Shame in My Game' from First Nations rapper and musician, Barkaa and Simone Stacey presented by CIAF in partnership with WOW Australia.

Behind the scenes at CIAF market. (Image: supplied)

When it comes to CIAF's signature art fair exhibition, Lane confirms that more than 300 works are anticipated to be included in the Art Fair exhibition.

"Works will be chosen on their artistic merit and response to this year's Country Speaking theme. This is an opportunity for artists to explore their spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental relationship to the Country, a strong First Nations concept embodying 65,000 years of deep connection to the land, waters, skies, and seas. Country speaks. It always has and always will. The question is - are we listening?" she said.

In addition to the Art Fair, a second signature, an anniversary-themed exhibition, 'Not Selling Cakes', will be presented at Tanks Arts Centre, recognising outstanding artists who have contributed to CIAF since its inception in 2009.

"CIAF has become a platform for catapulting the careers of artists, arts workers, and performers. It is a space to discover new talent and celebrate established ones. In a unique attribute compared to other art fairs held in capital cities, CIAF artists and performers are showcased in the tropical paradise of Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest."

Stallholders and attendees behind the scenes at CIAF market. (Image: supplied)

Treaty, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnership's and arts minister Leeanne Enoch said that the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is a keynote Queensland cultural event.

"The Queensland government has supported CIAF since the first fair in 2009 and is investing $1 million in this year's event, creating an ethical marketplace for First Nations artists to promote and sell their work," she said.

"We know there's significant demand for Queensland First Nations art in Australia and overseas, which also delivers opportunities to share and elevate the diverse and unique stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

"Our ongoing support for CIAF delivers on priorities in the Queensland Government's 10-year Creative Together strategy, ensuring Queensland First Nations artists can embrace the global spotlight of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games and share their art and culture on the world stage."

CIAF market. (Image: supplied)

In 2024, CIAF will present two events to 'warm up' the city's heart with First Nations' cultural flair before culminating in the official four-day program starting Thursday, 25 July.

The second annual BLAKtivation, with 'live and free' art, music, dance, illuminations, and markets, will be held in the CBD on Saturday, the 13th July. It will be followed by Cairns Regional Council's presentation of Music on the Lawn at Court House Gallery, starring musicians Broden Tyrell, Yirghilya and Kee'Ahn.

A special concert from Torres Strait Islander Patrick Mau of Mau Power fame will be fearured, with a musical celebration of his 2014 album release, Island Home, on Saturday the 20th July.

CIAF 2024 will be held between Thursday 25th to Sunday the 28th July 2024. The full program is now available to view online.

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