Moving from its usual August dates, the always-vibrant Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) will return to screens this month with another digital iteration.
Attracting thousands of national and international collectors and curators each year, the ethical marketplace and celebration of First Nations art and culture helps to provide cultural exchange and understanding, economic opportunity and career pathways for emerging and established visual and performance artists.
Starting today, Wednesday 10 November, the event will see a series of presentations, performances, webinars, workshops, community spotlights, conversations and virtual gallery exhibitions roll out online until 19 November.
CIAF’s signature fashion event will also return in 2021, this year curated by award-winning artist Clinton Naina. An exploration of “cultural stories, connection to Country and truth-telling through a fashion and design lens”, Of Spirit & Story will showcase collections inspired by natural materials, celebrating the collision of colours and textures to create wearable art. Inspired by sacred sites and places of significance, the featured designers will convey cultural and historical stories about their land and the responsibility of caring for Country through design, music and performance. Of Spirit & Story will screen online this Friday 12 November at 7pm AEST.
“This performance has never been about fashion for fashion’s sake; the message is always significant, if not more so, than the garments on show,” CIAF’s artistic director, Janina Harding, said.
“We know how important it is to control and protect our sacred sites and places. On our homelands or in our regions there are various ecological forms such as rainforest, rocky terrain, mountains, waterways, beaches, and land that hold cultural significance or historical value or both. We have stories that relate to the Dreaming as well as places that are pivotal to our lived experience. Sacred sites and places of significance cannot be replaced. In the same way, our knowledge is also irreplaceable.”
image DESIGN BY SIMONE ARNOL. MODELS (L-R): HANS AHWANG, JAMES STEVENS, TALEISE WILLET, TAHANESS BULI, BENITA WILLIAMS, SARAH FAGAN, CALE VILAFLOR, THALIA BROWN. PHOTO BY VERONICA SAGREDO.
A cast and crew of 13 Indigenous models – both experienced mentors and first timers – will be featured in the program which will see 10 fashion collections presented in a creative and cultural showcase.
Participating designers include Bana Yirriji Art Centre, Irene Robinson, Lynelle Flinders (Sown in Time), Cairns TAFE Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Arts students, Hope Vale Art and Culture Centre, Pormpuraaw Art and Culture, Yarrabah Arts Centre and Cultural Precinct featuring Francois Lane of Indij Design, Yindilli – Raelea Wangullay Connolly-Neal, Magpie Goose and Simone Arnol and Bernard Singleton.
Ahead of the incredible display of First Nations talent, we sat down to have a yarn with Clinton about Country, culture and connection, and to get a little teaser about this year’s performance.
image HOPE VALE ART & CULTURE IN COLLABORATION WITH QUT. MODELLED BY THALIA BROWN. PHOTO BY VERONICA SAGREDO.
Tell us a little bit about this year’s fashion performance. What inspired the theme, Of Spirit and Story?
Of Spirit & Story derives from a statement that Artistic Director Janina Harding thought of earlier this year. As the artistic curator of the performance, from there I developed the working title Of Spirit & Story metaphorically speaking of the spiritual and historical connection to Country and place through the First Sovereign People’s lease.
What designers will be featured? Can you give us a little teaser about the concepts and ideas behind some of the collections?
Pormpuraaw Arts are a major feature in this year’s performance featuring some wonderful sculptural head adornments that are spiritually linked to the stories of their animal creations and Country.
How does First Nations connection to Country translate to Indigenous fashion and design?
Connection to Country is translated to fashion and design through one’s cultural and historical knowledge of Country and the continuation of story and memory of place, family and community, and one’s identity and life experience.
Why do you believe it’s important to showcase First Nations fashion and design in this way?
It is very important to have this opportunity to showcase First Sovereign Nations Peoples’ fashion and design in this way because it strongly helps educate the wider population and in turn creates a positive platform to help facilitate the breaking down of negative stereotypes of First Sovereign Nations Peoples.
image DESIGN BY IRENE ROBINSON. MODELLED BY AMARIAH THOMAS. PHOTO BY VERONICA SAGREDO.
How have the challenges of COVID-19 impacted the planning of the event?
COVID-19 has impacted the planning of this event greatly. We have had to plan and rethink different aspects of the performance in order to successfully deliver this event. Having to navigate through this present time has been very hard in developing a program like this with the uncertainty of what could unfold next.
What do you want people to take away from the performance?
I would like people to come away from the performance with a greater knowledge, understanding and insight of First Sovereign Nations Peoples’ culture, fashion and design.