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CIAF 2024

CIAF 2024 Program Highlights

The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair will celebrate an extraordinary journey of evolution and growth when the event's 15th anniversary is staged at venues across the city this July, featuring hundreds of First Nations artists, performers, fashion designers, and creatives.


CIAF 2024's theme ‘Country Speaking’ provides an opportunity for Country to be heard. Since time immemorial, First Nation Peoples have lived in close relationship with Country. Country in turn speaks to its wellbeing; it can be heard in a whisper of the changing wind indicating the arrival of a new season, to the raging violence of rising tides reclaiming coastlines. Country speaks, always.  

Changing climate is affecting human kind. It impacts the livelihoods of First Nations people from traditional food supply to encroaching tidal lines on Country. The constant voice of Country has been communicated continually. CIAF’s 2023 theme will provide insight into what Country is speaking to its custodians. Country is always speaking; the question is, are we listening? 

Country Speaking is the overarching theme connecting all aspects of the CIAF 2024 Program.

CIAF 2024



Shields Street Esplanade to Lake Street, Cairns City


BLAKtivation is set in the Indigenous landscape architecturally designed street scape of Shields Street between the Esplanade and Lake Street.  

Presenting a family friendly, accessible arts and cultural event activating Shields Street, with Indigenous dance performances, digital art projections, sculptural art installations, story tellers and poets  

BLAKtivation bring Indigenous culture to the heart of Cairns CBD and Esplanade. It is a prelude to CIAF 2024 presenting creative organisation collaborations and individual performances. 

Participating Hoteliers will have Indigenous artworks exhibited in the foyers as part of BLAKtivation setting the scene for visitors and locals that CIAF is approaching. 

Blaktivation will be followed by Music on the Lawn, a CIAF Partner by Cairns Regional Council at the Cairns Court House Lawns featuring live music by Indigenous musicians until 9pm. 

CIAF 2024



Cairns Convention Centre

tickets here

CIAF’s 15th year celebration kicks off with Traditional Owner cultural dances and live music performances.

Guests will be treated to the simultaneous opening of the Art Fair and Art Market.

This year’s Art Fair will present artworks inspired by this year’s theme Country Speaking with the major CIAF Art Award presentations. 

CIAF 2023


JULY 25 - 28

Cairns Convention Centre


Inspired by this year’s theme Country Speaking, the CIAF 2024 Art Fair showcases works from Queensland’s established and emerging Indigenous Art Centers, Queensland commercial galleries and independent Indigenous artists. 

You can also enjoy the bustling CIAF Art Market inside the CIAF pavilion with over 55 stalls showcasing and selling art, craft and design works by Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Centers, artists and designers. Purchase unique artist maker, artworks, craft and jewelry products directly from the artists and entrepreneurs who create the work. 

CIAF 2023


JULY 25 - 28

Cairns Convention Centre

The Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair offers a range of fun and free activities for people of all ages at the Cairns Convention Centre, including:

CIAF Kids: Self-guided arts and craft activities

Free workshops: Indigenous knowledge and science of ecoystems

Dance, music and cultural performances: Various performances across three days

Weaving workshops: Learn from master weavers at free workshops

Yarning Circle: Cultural conversations and panel discussions on the Main Stage at the Art Market

Enjoy these free activities happening in and around the bustling CIAF Art Fair and Art Market, where you can purchase unique artist maker, artworks, craft and jewelry products directly from the artists and entrepreneurs who create the work.

CIAF 2024


JULY 25 - 26

Tank 3, Tanks Arts Centre


Fire connects Indigenous people to the land. It has a symbolic significance.   

Since time immemorial, we have been using fire to hunt animals, maintain ecosystems and manage the land. Fire was used to clear pathways, to encourage new growth, native foods and flora to grow, attract animals, hunting and gathering. We used it to gain better access to Country, so it cleared the underbrush to prevent lightning and wildfires from consuming the land.  

We need to maintain cultural responsibilities as part of cultural management.  

Caring for Country is caring for our land, are we listening? 

CIAF 2023


JULY 26 - 27

Bulmba Ja Theatre


Country in a western sense can be described an area of land that has its own government or land that is not in towns. Country with a capital ‘C’ as used by First Nations people embodies the deep connection to the land, waters, skies and seas within their Nation and Clans. It is also much more. It encompasses the spiritual, physical, emotional and mental relationship to Country.

Country is inclusive of the tangible living and breathing landscapes and the animals nourished by it. The ancient songlines of 65,000 years of ancestral connections deepen First Nation People’s relationship with Country which cannot always be seen but is intangible. CIAF 2024 Symposium seeks to expound and educate towards a deeper understanding of Country speaking.  

Presenting feature speakers and conversation panels, CIAF Symposium will explore the expression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural expressions that spans across western defined disciplines of urban design, cultural practice, performance, art and science from practitioners. 

CIAF 2024



Tank 5, Tanks Arts Centre


Proudly supported by CIAF in partnership with WOW Australia 

CIAF’s Saturday night performance stars Barkaa, one of Australia’s most exciting new hip hop artists supported by Simone Stacey with young performers of the ‘No Shame in my Game’ music development program.

Expect powerful and unapologetic BLAK narratives by some of our most talented young female performers across hip hop, DJ and vocals. 

CIAF 2024

NOT SELLING CAKES: Celebrating CIAF’s 15th Year Anniversary

JULY 5 - 28

Tank 4, Tanks Arts Centre


The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair will celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2024 with a signature exhibition that pays homage to the unique talents of CIAF artists and their contributions to the Queensland Indigenous art movement since its first iteration in 2009.  

This significant milestone is a testament to the enduring legacy of Indigenous art and the cultural vibrancy of First Nations communities in Queensland, celebrating the past, present, and future of Indigenous artistic and cultural expression. The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair continues to be a beacon for preserving and promoting the unique artistic traditions and creating lasting legacies.  

Responding to the number ‘15’ as a legacy marker, CIAF invited 15 arts professionals to provide input into the development of the exhibition in celebration of art, culture, and community. The exhibition title “Not Selling Cakes” is a statement by the late Billy Missi which was first used to title the landmark 2006 report that investigated issues affecting the sustainability of Indigenous art centres in Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait, a key factor in the launch of CIAF in 2009. 

Join us at the exhibition party at Tank 5 on Friday, July 26.


NorthSite Contemporary Arts Gallery 

1 June – 1 September 

Bulmba-ja Arts Centre, 96 Abbott Street, Cairns


Season 3 Exhibition 

Gallery 1:
Exhibition: Way to Be
Artist: Vernon Ah Kee is a descendant of the Kuku Yalanji, Yidinyji and Guugu Yimithirr people of North Queensland. He has kinship connections to the Waanyi people of north-west Queensland. 
Way To Be explores the way in which we view and interact with cultural heritage sites such as the Western Yalanji rock art galleries (known as the Magnificent Gallery) through various technologies including augmented and virtual reality, as well as artificial intelligence. Through video, sound and photography, Way to Be provides an opportunity for new ideas and fresh conversations about the way to think about rock art.  

Gallery 2:
Meriba Tonar | Ngoelmudh | Our Way
Curated by Aven Noah Jr and Leitha Assan
Presented in partnership with Gab Titui Cultural Centre, Thursday Island, this exhibition will showcase exciting new works by emerging and established Torres Strait artists James Ahmat Sr, Lara Fujii, Harry Nona, Nola Ward-Page, Alick Passi, Maryann Sabasio.

Project Wall Spaces
Long Wall:
Andrew Passi Sr: Lamar Kop | Spiritual Centre
An exhibition of new dance machines and masks by Mer (Murray Island) artist Andrew Passi Sr.  

Foyer Wall:
This exhibition showcases new prints on paper and fabric by emerging and established Cairns based First Nations artists, produced during the SpotFire Print Program at NorthSite Art Studios in 2023. Exhibiting artists: Brian Robinson, Glen Mackie, Kassandra Savage, Robert Tommy Pau, Ruth Saveka, Sheryl J Burchill, and Zane Saunders.

Cairns Art Gallery


Location: Cairns Art Gallery, 40 Abbott Street, Cairns City 

Ryan Presley, MONGREL
1 June - 25 Aug 2024
Ryan Presley’s Mongrel features large-scale paintings in which identity, politics, power imbalance and history are constantly inter-woven. He repositions history from an Aboriginal perspective and utilises subtle and overt references to the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras, or features religious, classical and antiquity imagery. By centring Aboriginal people, whether woman, man or a native dingo, Ryan creates a storyboard full of energy, motion, connectivity and curiosity that challenges stereotypes and repositions Aboriginal narratives. 

Janet Fieldhouse, MATERIAL CULTURE
8 June - 1 Sep 2024 
Janet Fieldhouse’s abstract ceramic forms explore Zenadth Kes/Torres Strait Islander cultural charms used traditionally for personal, ceremony and/or religious purposes.  As personal expressions they reflect subject matters about love in various guises - to draw in affection, ward off and repel evil spirits, attract certain animals and fishes to the hunt, or encourage plant growth and abundance when placed in gardens. Janet’s combination of buff raku and cool ice ceramics with different firing techniques and natural adornments repositions her works as uniquely her own.
Material Culture has been supported through a Cairns RSL Club Artist Fellowship Award 

8 June - 1 Sep 2024
Life on the River brings together a series of new photographs by multidisciplinary artist Naomi Hobson. Taken during the wet season, the playful images capture Coen’s vibrant river culture and the relationships between the people and Wukaanta – The Coen River. These works highlight the centrality of the river to life in Coen and all the bugs, birds, insects, and food gathering that takes place there and has taken place there for generations.
Life by the River has been supported through a Cairns RSL Club Artist Fellowship Award 

Tommy Pau, ILAN OMAN
25 May - 4 Aug 2024
Tommy Pau is of the Samsep tribe of Erub in the Torres Strait. Ilan Oman explores themes of ilan pasin - island way - how life was and still is practised in the Torres Strait, particularly through the matriarchal line. The exhibition features exquisitely carved monochromatic and hand-coloured linocuts, which reference traditional myths and legends, as well as the artist’s personal anecdotes and experiences.
Ilan Oman has been supported through a Cairns RSL Club Artist Fellowship Award

Cairns Court House Gallery  

Curated by Debbie Taylor Worley   

38 Abbott St, Cairns City QLD   

Brisbane Portrait Prize  

Art, dance, song, storytelling, and ceremony have been methods of passing down history and understandings of the cosmos for thousands of generations.  Having survived colonisation and its multitude of ill-effects, contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists continue to use art and performance to tell their stories, asserting their sovereignty, their unceded right to belong, connect and determine their own paths. 
As Māori academic Linda Tuhiwai Smith explains, “Just because a person has two ears, there is no guarantee they will listen. We must find a way to make them hear with their eyes, their mouths, stomachs, and hearts.  Ritual, ceremony, poetry, song, dance, and art are effective ways of sharing our stories to those who don’t know how to listen.” This has regrettably become more relevant considering the negative outcome of the Voice Referendum. 
Portraits directly engage us with issues of identity - how we construct our sense of self and determine our values - so we can create meaning and belonging in a challenging world.  By partnering to present Sovereignty - Centre Stage, Brisbane Portrait Prize and CIAF have placed Meeanjin’s original storytellers centre-stage, turning the bright lights towards First Nations artists and performers, heroes, mentors, and inspirational characters. It provides opportunity to amplify their stories, identity, self, history, home, and truth. 

All Come Under
When listening to Country, we all come under the relevance and currency of Indigenous cultural authority. Deep seated governance systems established by Aboriginal people allow the respectful inhabitation of environments, land, water and sky. And it is essential that an ongoing connection and relationship to Country, as experienced by the ancestors of this land is again allowed to flourish. All Come Under is an exhibition by a collaboration of artists. Their friendship and respect for each other affirms the power of creative expression to communicate, and the opportunity to allow country to speak to us. 

Zane Saunders is an Indigenous visual artist and performer, a descendant of Butchulla, Gunggari and Jarrowia People’s of Southern Queensland, who lives in Kuranda North Queensland, Australia.
Darren Blackman, is an Indigenous visual and sound artist, identifying as a Gureng Gureng/Gangalu man from Queensland’s central coast with Kanak South Sea Islander heritage from Vanuatu.
Bonemap’s Rebecca Youdell and Russell Milledge are partners who work in dance, visual and media arts collaboration. Both are from European immigrant ancestry.