Words: Charlotte Middleton
In its eleventh iteration in 2020, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) is adapting to current circumstances by moving its program online. Organisers anticipate that the interactive digital platform, streaming for 10 days from August 14 to 23, will deliver an equally rich festival experience to an even wider global audience.
CIAF has a history of offering an ethical art marketplace, attracting national and international collectors and curators, commissioning new work and providing pathways for emerging performance artists.
“It is our intention to present CIAF 2020 through an online platform enabling our communities, friends and supporters to present and experience the vibrant and unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture of this region,” said CIAF Chair Tom Mosby.
CIAF 2020 – The Cultural Revolution, will comprise a series of live stream presentations, performances, webinars, workshops, community spotlights, virtual gallery exhibitions and conversations with the overarching theme of climate change. Highlights include opening night on Friday 14 August, featuring a community spotlight from across Queensland and the Torres Strait, culminating in a musical performance by Zennith. Online audiences can also look forward to the Annual Art Awards, CIAF’s first ever dedicated theme song, and a special closing ceremony.
A Virtual Gallery showcasing 300 artworks Queensland First Peoples’ artists will run from opening night until 13 September, alongside the additional exhibition Undercurrents, showing online as well as on select dates at Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns.
Undercurrents addresses the imbalance of written colonial history vs First Peoples’ oral history, with artists surveying the impact of James Cook through a collection of paintings, works on paper, sculpture, photography, textile installations and screen. Curated by Janina Harding and Hetti Perkins, the exhibition is a powerful platform for truth-telling, revealing the Blak resilience of sovereign nations.
Other entertainment and educational programs across the 10 days include music and cultural dance, comedy, art demonstrations and children’s storytime sessions. The festival will also feature critical talks about Indigenous tourism, the enduring colonial legacy of Cook, Indigenous fashion and the climate crisis. Being rolled out on a widely accessible online platform will give the festival the exciting potential to contribute to discourse about Australia’s Bla(c)k Lives Matter movement and feed into broader international conversations.
CIAF Artistic Director Janina Harding acknowledges that recent enforced isolation and the remoteness of some of the involved communities has presented challenges. However, she is very positive about the prospect of working with local artists, communities and curators to deliver an innovative festival platform.
“There is a great sense of teamwork and optimism at play which is helping to overcome all of the obstacles,” she said.
“We will provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with help, guidance and the means required, to offer CIAF’s wider community of friends and supporters an intimate digital insight into Country and culture.
“The reality of a virtual CIAF 2020 is exciting when you consider we will present to the world, 600 artists from across the entire state of Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands.”
Image: CIAF 2018 Opening Night, Gimuy Dancers. Courtesy: Lovegreen Photography.