Traditional language and storytelling themes resound in record breaking 10th anniversary season
9 August 2019
While record art sales and visitor numbers are key yardsticks achieved by Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) in its 10 year, it is a series of qualitative outcomes that define success and sustainability for Queensland’s quintessential First Peoples’ cultural event.
Sunshine filled days and a diverse, predominantly free program abounding in highpoints, drew community and visitors together in their thousands to immerse themselves in an intergenerational, cultural exchange underpinned by this year’s themes of traditional language and storytelling.
In its 10-year history CIAF has generated $7.6 million in art sales which has been returned to the artistic community and will be used to further develop their practice and cumulatively, recognition for Queensland’s two Indigenous cultures and diverse art movement.
Added to this, the event provided a marketplace for curators to acquire special works that will join the collections of museums, institutions and galleries in Australia and overseas.
Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch congratulated CIAF on its success this year, saying the Fair has continued to go from strength to strength.
“This year’s CIAF marked a decade of excellence for one of the state’s most significant arts and cultural events,” Minister Enoch said.
“With support from the Queensland Government, CIAF continues to showcase Queensland’s First Nations artists and provides an ethical marketplace to take their art to a global audience.”
In its 10th anniversary year the CIAF Collectors + Curators group comprised 63 members, including a cohort of 28 Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Ambassadors. Of the attendees, four members were internationals, 39 were first time visitors and 37 were collectors.
Collectors + Curators convenor, Hetti Perkins said this year the program attendance was outstanding comprising eight directors and 18 senior staff members of public institutions, including four from either state or national galleries.
In releasing CIAF’s sales and attendance figures today, General Manager Vanessa Gillen said that while numbers provide valuable data in terms of programming relevance, commercial viability is fundamental in providing substantive support and opportunities for Indigenous artists and arts centres.
“For artists and communities situated in the remote reaches of Queensland and the Torres Strait, CIAF is a once in a year event which brings everyone together to celebrate culture, identity and talented artisans whose practice reflects a strong sense of place and is therefore as diverse as it is meaningful.
“This year we really marked our coming of age and establishment as a not for profit non-government organisation that has expanded its legacy from an annual Art Fair to a 12-month program of collaborative projects.” Ms Gillen said.
In 2019 sales from CIAF’s Art Fair and Art Market equated to $924,000 which was a 4.29 per cent increase on last year’s figure of $886,000.
When it closed on Sunday 14 July after five days of events CIAF 2019 had drawn an overall audience together of 45,410 compared to 44,785 in 2018 equating to a 1.4 per cent increase.
Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said the success of the event demonstrated the strong desire for Indigenous tourism experiences.
“We know that Tropical North Queensland offers diverse and unique experiences of Australia’s indigenous culture, and that these experiences are in increasing demand from global travellers,” Ms Jones said.
“CIAF provides the perfect excuse to explore the region during the tropical winter and the strong attendance numbers and art sales results show that the event is an important part of the region’s tourism offering.
“The Queensland Government, through Tourism and Events Queensland, is a strong supporter of events like CIAF which showcase our unique culture and drive visitors to the region which supports local jobs and the local tourism industry.”
The event was supported through Tourism and Events Queensland’s Destination Event Program and a feature on the It’s Live! In Queensland event calendar, worth $800 million to the state’s economy this year.
CIAF’s artistic director Janina Harding said the feedback from this year’s event has been outstanding and there has been much praise for the program comprising several curated exhibitions including the Art Fair’s My Yarn Now and Thancoupie – A Legacy of Cultural Power, three-day art market, Symposium, workshops, Cultural Heights – A Celebration of Traditional Language and Song, approximately 50 individual dance and music acts, talks and conversations, Buwal-barra fashion performance, food and the presentation of six CIAF Art Awards with winners sharing in a prize cache of $50,000.
“The word ‘art’ to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a complex story of creative expression and cultural sharing and in this year’s program we showcased some 500 visual and performing artists.
“When people buy art, it is not just about how the piece looks – be it woven, carved or hand fired sculptures, lino prints on paper or acrylics on canvas – it is the story behind the work that means the most to buyers.
“CIAF is about shining a light on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life experience and celebrating this nation's two distinct cultures while elevating the community’s appreciation of Queensland’s First Peoples,” Ms Harding said.