From Nicolas Rothwell in the Austrlian on the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair:
Displayed in the cavernous interiors of two World War II-era concrete storage bunkers, the works on view at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair offer an intriguing overview of Queensland’s Aboriginal art-making traditions, present and past.
Here are urban indigenous art pieces, strong and hard, set beside delicate print works from the Torres Strait, woven and ceramic pieces brought to life in new art centres, even historical surveys of half-forgotten mid-20th-century precursors from the far north.
In its second year, CIAF once more demonstrates what lavish funding, creative curating and open-minded programming can achieve. The venture put together by the fair’s founding artistic director, Michael Snelling, serves as an object-lesson in tactful, civilised exploration of the zone where culture, politics and post-colonial negotiations meet. The arguments Snelling advances through his projects, commissions and selections are never didactic, but they provoke reflection and engage works from different times, places and strands of experience in free-flowing dialogues. Under his guidance, CIAF has been an arts workshop, a hearth for live performances and a festival where narratives meet.
How, in the midst of this profusion of works, to escape the sense of old connections being pieced back together, of boundaries between worlds breaking down? CIAF offers a route-map for appreciating Queensland’s Aboriginal art, but it also charts a way ahead for artists, and their backers, as a new approach to the frontier and its memories is slowly forged. This is a triumph of arts management and entrepreneurship, and a striking demonstration, dramatically against the flow of much Australian experience, that governments can intervene intelligently to promote culture and husband indigenous creative energies.