Now in its eighth year, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) is a celebration of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts cultures of Queensland. It’s also one of the town’s biggest drawcards, attracting a record 51,000 people to its Art Fair, fashion show and associated events in 2016.

The Art Fair is a fun, ethical point of sale for more than 150 artists from the region and its eight art centres established in some of the most isolated communities on Cape York and in the Torres Strait. This year it’s been extended to run from two to three days. In addition to the art fair, CIAF boasts numerous performances, workshops, forums and other events open to the public “ all starting on July 13th and packing the following weekend.

CIAF 2017 will explore the theme ˜Family Values’, taking its cue from Indigenous peoples’ connection to Country and family. As Artistic Director, Janina Harding explains: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are complex, systems-based units, sharing and passing knowledge from generation to generation. We’ve invited our artists to interpret this theme in a range of different ways that follow the threads of family connections through community, through time, through homelands and identity.

Ms Harding continued, When compared to other Australian Indigenous art fairs and festivals, there is nothing else like CIAF. From the dramatic lino cuts of the Torres Strait to the ghost net weaving in Pormpuraaw, the vibrant majestic colours of Mornington Island painting, coil pottery from Yarrabah and ceramic bagu from Girringun, CIAF is completely distinct, ever-evolving, inclusive and immersive. Over the years it has been successful in developing its own ˜sense of place’ that in essence, is a truly joyful celebration.

An exciting collaboration introduced this year is a commissioning project spearheaded by the National Gallery of Victoria enabling TSI artists to create a collection of traditional dance machines that will be on show and on sale. Dance machines are mechanical moving objects “ hand-held ˜clappers’ and headdresses which vividly enhance dance performances with movement and sound while offering striking representations of land, water, and celestial environments.

This year’s program is jam-packed with experiences, events and intimate performances, including:

Opening night party, Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal July 13.

CIAF Art Fair, Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal, July 14-16.

WANDAN fashion performance, Tanks, July 14.

World premiere of My Name is Jimi, a new play by Queensland theatre starring and exploring the life of Torres Strait Islander stage and screen actor, Jimi Bani, Cairns Centre of Contemporary Arts, July 12.

The artist Daniel Boyd enjoys a solo show at the Cairns Regional Art Gallery – ‘Bitter Sweet’. Selected works will trace the hidden history of slavery in Far North Queensland that resulted in 60,000 South Sea Islander people being taken to work in sugarcane plantations from the mid1800s to early1900s. The artworks selected for the exhibition will examine the collective memory and journeys of the artist’s family from Pentecost Island in Vanuatu and to Far North Queensland. The themes of the Exhibition also relate that to the Gallery’s strategic research focus to examine art produced in the FNQ region, the Pacific, and the world’s tropic zone.

Injinoo emerging artist Teho Ropeyarn’s exhibition Ulada Ikya Ami (Listening to Beforetime Stories) presents an overview of Injinoo culture and history from Northern Cape York. Large-scale print works reveal narratives from Dreamtime, colonisation into the present. The cultural knowledge of the Gudang, Angkamuthi, Yadhaykana and Atabaya nations of Northern Cape York and their interconnectedness as Injinoo people is showcased through an exhibition that incorporates myths, legends, historic rock art, and spirituality. ‘Ulada Ikya Ami’ is on at KickArts Contemporary Arts Gallery.

Also at KickArts – Aurukun Women’s Painting sees the results of the newly formed women’s painting group at the Wik & Kugu Art Centre. Mentored by national artist Chayni Henry the exhibition highlights a new generation of artists from this region, and reveals imagery surrounding place and traditional totems.

Canopy Art Centre present the ‘Persistence of Tradition’ exhibition at their Grafton Street galleries. Persistence of Tradition is all about the Dari (or Dhoeri), which is the distinctive traditional ceremonial headdress of the Torres Strait worn by men. It is the central motif on the region’s flag and symbolises the identity and unity of all Torres Strait Islanders. This exhibition features Dari/Dhoeri and prints from Mer (John Barsa), Erub (Daniel O’Shane), Iama (Glen Mackie) and Badu Island (Joemen Nona).

The Family Values photographic exhibition, a curated collection of works by youth in the Cairns and Woorabinda communities, mentored by Woorabinda artist Nickeema Williams.

This year CIAF celebrates 25 years of Mabo and is excited to announce that artist Gail Mabo “ Eddie’s daughter – is presenting a new body of work based on Torres Strait Islander nautical navigation through astronomy.

Unveiled along with the program was the updated 2017 version of CIAF’s event app which provides attendees with helpful information about events, including location maps, artist information, the ability to create your own customised schedule, ticketing, and for the first time, the ability to vote for the People’s Choice Award as part of the CIAF Art Awards.