Queensland’s Minister for the Arts, Leeanne Enoch last night announced the winners of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair’s first three prizes, headed by Aurukun artist Janet Koongotema taking out CIAF’s pinnacle Art Award for 2023, the Premier’s Award for Excellence.

She commented, “Our support for the CIAF Art Awards is part of a broader Queensland Government investment in CIAF to grow the international profile and markets for (Queensland’s) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts and artists, and ensure CIAF is positioned on the global stage ahead of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games”.

Art Centre of the 2023 Fair is Pormpuraaw Art & Culture Centre for its cohesive body of work that resonated with judges to win the Art Centre Award for the second time. Both winners of course come from Cape York.

However, Independent artist winner was Gureng Gureng\Gangalu man, Darren Blackman from the Bundaberg region who’s work secured the Holding Redlich Innovation Award for pushing boundaries and weaving together traditional and contemporary methodologies.

The 7th annual CIAF Art Awards had a boosted prize cache of $60,000 and the winners were selected from approximately 500 artworks created in the 14 Queensland art centres which featured in CIAF’s ‘Weaving our Future: Claiming our Sovereignty’ category.

The 2023 judging panel comprised 2024 Venice Biennale artist Archie Moore, proppaNOW member Tony Albert and Leitha Assan, Programmes Manager at the Torres Strait Regional Authority’s Gab Titui Cultural Centre Culture. They remarked on Janet Koongotema’s unique style and striking use of colour. “Her intrinsic knowledge of Country lays claim to the sovereignty, strength, and resilience of her people. Stunning work”.

Janet is a highly respected Wik-Mungkan Elder from the Winchanam Clan and has exhibited work at CIAF since 2010. She’s also broken out of Queensland with her debut selections for NSW’s Wynne Prize earlier this year and for the imminent NATSIAA Telstra Awards.

The judges were also impressed by Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Centre’s dynamic, optimistic, and inspirational space. “The community had a clear vision and theme with a cohesive resonance which resonated with us all. Their presentation was creative and original, and it was great to see so many emerging artists reinvigorating the art centre”.

In the 2023 Innovation Award the judges said Darren Blackman’s works push the boundaries and “His strong claim to sovereignty using text and fashion was fresh and complimented the theme in an imaginative way. Through breaking convention, he has cleverly and effectively challenged convention.”

Rounding out CIAF’s $60,000 awards cache during Sunday’s closing ceremony was the announcement that Erub Islander, Toby Cedar had won the 3-D Installation and Sculpture Award sponsored by Ports North ($5,000) for a wall installation that set traditional fishing spears against the wonderful contemporary fish design, Pormpuraaw artist Mylene Holroyd had won Apunipima’s Emerging Artist (Acquisitive) Award ($5,000) for a monprint, while Badu Islander Douglas Tamwoy was voted the Torres Strait Regional Authority’s People’s Choice Award-winner ($5,000)