If you ask people to talk about Australian indigenous art, most will think immediately of dot paintings – a style that comes from the deserts of central Australia and is instantly recognisable all over the world as Australian and indigenous. It’s by far the most commercially successful branch of our indigenous arts scene. But it’s not the only style. Indigenous art varies widely in style and choice of medium across the country, but it can be hard for artists to compete with the universally popular dot paintings.
Many visitors are drawn to far north Queensland by indigenous art. We have many indigenous art centres around FNQ, and indigenous art is available in Cairns. For some years our city has put on CIAF – the Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair, bringing many thousands of visitors and many economic benefits to artists and the region. CIAF was held in a scaled down form this year, and it remains to be seen how viable an event it will be in the future with significantly less State Government funding.
Around our region, indigenous arts centres encourage the cultural and spiritual expression which is central to indigenous art. But in many communities, the practice of art is also a valuable source of income, maybe the only viable way for people to remain in their country and make a living. So it’s crucial that their work can gain wider exposure – as it’s a very long journey to some of those arts centres.
The newly formed Indigenous Art Centre Alliance Inc hopes to address these challenges. It represents 13 arts centres in FNQ, Cape York Peninsula & Torres Strait. It’s members met in Cairns this week to consider the way forward. LISTEN to my interview with manager Pam Bigelow & Treasurer Dev Lengjel here