CIAF 2020 resounds in landmark 11th season

Published by: Cairns Indigenous Art Fair | 1-Oct-2020
While online art sales and digital engagement are key yardsticks achieved by Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) in its 11th year, it is a series of qualitative outcomes defining success and sustainability for Queensland's quintessential First Peoples' cultural event.
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Climate Change theme & digital program tap new markets and resound in landmark 11th season

CAIRNS. Thursday 1 October 2020. While online art sales and digital engagement are key yardsticks achieved by Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) in its 11th year, it is a series of qualitative outcomes defining success and sustainability for Queensland's quintessential First Peoples' cultural event.

Responding quickly and with determined focus to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions earlier this year, CIAF launched The Cultural Evolution, its first ever digital program spanning 10 days and comprising more than 40 individual and free-of-charge to view, events held between Friday 14 and Sunday 23 August 2020.

For its inaugural online iteration, CIAF's Facebook posts and livestreams reached 2, 646, 397 people in 80 countries while the 2020 program website was visited 12, 968 times by 85 countries (and growing).

Art collectors and buyers showed unwavering support, with art fair sales up over $4k from 2019 art fair sales, totalling a grand $330, 781.

Of CIAF's 8 gallery exhibitions, the Undercurrents Cook 2020 exhibition, where artists survey the impact of Cook and the imbalance of (written) colonial history Vs First Peoples' (oral) history, took almost 20 percent of sales, proving the resonance of this topic and value of CIAF as a platform for First Nations conversations.

From the outset, CIAF Board and management were united and committed in their aim to present an illuminating program that mirrored its physical counterpart with online-ready, visual art exhibitions and markets to music, dance and fashion performances, cultural yarns, critical conversations, annual Art Awards and artists talks.

CIAF's Artistic Director Janina Harding said that choosing to proceed with a virtual program allowed the event to maintain and grow its already powerful brand while positioning the organisation at the forefront of new and innovative creative industries.

In many ways CIAF created a catalyst for change, by showing the vibrant complexities of Queensland's First Peoples' culture to the world via a virtual and deep listening experience.

We embraced culture and technology simultaneously to fast track the cultural evolution' while most critically, supporting artists with the continuation of their art practice at a time of uncertainty and quarantine.

The benefits of art-making from both an economic and mental health perspective is recognised as part of CIAF's social responsibility, Ms Harding said.

Ms Harding said the event's commitment to create an online presence, though exhaustive in terms of production and the logistics associated with curating 30 hours of compelling content, paid off exponentially.

I would like to acknowledge CIAF's partnership with the Torres Strait Regional Authority and the many communities and artists who made their own content, and so doing, allowed us to share their culture with the world.

By showcasing the art online via four virtual galleries including CIAF's Art Fair and Undercurrents “ Cook 2020, we have broadened and lifted the profiles of Queensland's artists and art centres while also tapping into a new buyers' market beyond Cairns.

Art sales not only bring economic benefits to artists; it lets artists provide their world view to those who want to be better informed, said Ms Harding.

Ms Harding praised the efforts her team, the artists and art centres who overcame all the challenges posed, including the freight of artwork from remote communities during lockdown, to bring CIAF “ The Cultural Evolution to life.

The effort has been worth it, and we now have a legacy in the digital platform with first-hand experience that will underpin and become an important part of future events; CIAF is digital ready! she said.

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said CIAF 2020 had reached millions of people across the globe, sharing Queensland's unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and stories.

"CIAF continues to successfully evolve as a powerful expression of culture, engaging with new audiences and is well positioned for future growth," Minister Enoch said.

CIAF's online platforms provided opportunities for artists to share their work with worldwide audiences, in a welcoming virtual space with an adapted program and marketplace that met the needs of a COVID-safe environment.

The Palaszczuk Government has invested in CIAF since its inception with annual funding of $600,000 through our Backing Indigenous Arts initiative to support artists and generate economic opportunities.

Since the onset of COVID-19 the Palaszczuk Government has committed to more than $42.5 million in relief measures, including our $22.5 million Arts and Cultural Recovery Package as part of Queensland's plan for economic recovery, Ms Enoch said.

In its 11-year history CIAF has generated almost $ 8 million in art sales which has been returned to the artistic community to further develop their practice and cumulatively, recognition for Queensland's two Indigenous cultures and diverse art movement.

Added to this, CIAF 2020 provided an online marketplace for curators to acquire special works that will join the collections of museums, institutions and galleries in Australia and overseas.

Among approximately 300 artworks sold in 2020, notable purchases by institutions (which include the Sea Museum and National Gallery of Victoria) accounted for all five artwork installations by this year's Queensland Government's Premier's Award for Excellence winner, Clinton Naina.

Also, in 2020, CIAF's partnership with Coral Expeditions culminated in a $22,000 prize promotion as well as the purchase of 10 artworks for the Cairns-based tourism operation's new vessel launching in 2021.

In releasing CIAF's sales and attendance figures today, General Manager Darrell Harris said that while statistics provide valuable data in terms of programming relevance, the commercial returns ensure artists have opportunity and support to continue their practice.
For more, visit:
Watch it all again:

Watch the CIAF Water Is Sacred Fashion Showcase' HERE.

Re-watch CIAF live streams anytime HERE.

Listen to CIAF Hour podcasts, by Bumma Bippera Media Cairns HERE.

Immerse yourself in CIAF 2020, including community spotlights, music, conversations and so much more via our new digital platform HERE.

About CIAF

CIAF was established by the Queensland Government in 2009 as a strategic initiative of Backing Indigenous Arts which aims to build stronger, more sustainable and ethical Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts industry in the State. CIAF Ltd, formed in 2014 is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and governed by a Board of Directors.

The Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and Tourism and Events Queensland is proud to support CIAF.

In 2019, CIAF celebrated its 10th Anniversary and continues to introduce innovative and exciting opportunities for Queensland Indigenous artists. CIAF has gone from strength to strength since the inaugural fair in 2009, attracting significant attention from both international and national institutional and private collectors, curators, media and the general public.

In 2020, CIAF delivered its new and interactive, digital festival platform to the world through a series of live stream presentations, performances, webinars, cultural talks, community spotlights, virtual gallery exhibitions. Traditional highlights transformed to the virtual platform include the opening and closing ceremonies, symposium, art exhibitions (CIAF Art Fair, Undercurrents “ Cook 2020, North Site Contemporary Arts' Billy Missi'n Wakain Thamai and UMI Arts' Freshwater Saltwater), and Water is Sacred fashion performance.

From the outset CIAF has generated strong outcomes locally and nationally. In just 11 years, over 320,000 people have visited the event and approximately $8 million has been generated in art sales which has been returned to the artistic community and is being used to further develop their art practice.

Praise for CIAF 2020

CIAF Concert Finale

Too Deadly! Miss hearing Naomi on stage “ enjoying the professional sound and footage of this live event! & Them Young ones Voices are so powerful, GREAT WORK CIAF!
Deline Briscoe, musican and former CIAF performer
CIAF Conversation “ Cook 2020

I'm really enjoying the wisdom of the people participating in this event.

Loretta Sullivan

CIAF Symposium “ Climate Change

We can't be onlookers to climate change- we need climate justice and respect for Country. Language links identity to place, tenure and stewardship of a people. Thanks, you are all inspirational! Bonmap Intermedia

Billy Missi Exhibition “ North Site Contemporary Arts

Yagar Bala Billy. Beautiful to see my Mabuyag families dancing and celebrating Billy's legacy and grateful to see it broadcast live.
Ngay Haych

Water is Sacred Fashion Performance
So proud right now so very powerful!

Gillian Mailman, CIAF Board Member
Water is Sacred Fashion Performance

Another amazing fashion show but this is even better with the backdrop of nature as the main stage.

Jodie Lindsay
TSI Community Spotlight
Coming through to Victoria beautifully, wish we were there
Karen Young, Victoria
Cultural Weaving Workshops

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of this beautiful fibre
Weaving with Merindi Shrieber

Ella McKella

am so excited to receive Esmae Bowen's painting 'Female Green Turtles' into my humble home. It is a surprise gift for my Daughter and Grandson. They will be so thrilled and surprised. We all love Turtles. We are all 'water babies'. Amazing.

I am so pleased to learn from you that the 2020 Art Fair was successful.

All of the art was creative and wonderful. Just beautiful and meaningful installations.

David Combe, art buyer

I (also) wanted to congratulate you all on a great art fair. Last year I was there in person and had a wonderful experience. However, the way you presented the virtual galleries this year was amazing. I hope it was a success for all the artists as well.

Look forward to being there in person again next year.

Lynne McKenzie, art buyer

Big Eso once again for inviting me to perform at this year's festival.

Just like to say that I really enjoyed the festival and the way it turned out despite the current circumstances. You mob did an excellent job and showed great professionalism.

Moses Warusam, musician and performer

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