Thousands flock to Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair with millions made for local art industries – Michmutters

Thousands flock to Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair with millions made for local art industries

Pottery, paintings and pandanus mats detailing stories from First Nations artists across the country have drawn large crowds at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF).

A major event for art lovers around Australia, the fair is held every year at the Darwin Convention Center as a way for talented Indigenous artists to bring their unique pieces to one central location and share their stories with the public.

This year’s event is expected to bring in millions of dollars for the 78 art centers represented at the fair, delivering an economic boost to remote communities around the country.

Two women look through fabrics hung on racks inside an art gallery.
Hand-dyed fabrics from Anindilyakwa Arts. (ABC News: Peter Garnish)
A crowd of people walking through the aisle of an art gallery, with the words "Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair" on a sign above them.
DAAF attracted crowds over the weekend. (ABC News: Peter Garnish)

DAAF chair Franchesca Cubillo said arts and culture in remote regions were the “lifeblood of any community”.

“They are the place where opportunities flourish, be it textile design and fashion, or artists sharing the rich history of bark painting or western desert painting,” she said.

A smiling woman sitting and speaking into a microphone as an art fair takes place in the background.
Franchesca Cubillo is a Larrakia, Bardi, Wardaman and Yanuwa woman.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)
A series of painted ceramic pots on display inside an art gallery.
Ceramics by Hermannsburg Potters — a crowd favourite.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

But the fair was not just a chance to “share our culture as a gift to the nation”, Ms Cubillo said.

It also allowed artists to earn a wage.

Two people stand at a desk to pay for an artwork, as an art fair goes on in the background.
The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) has seen $11 million in sales over the past five years.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)
Three people looking at brightly colored traditional Aboriginal paintings hung on the walls of an art gallery.
Attendees admired the intricacy of desert styles.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

“They’re able to secure an economic return, and that will allow that next generation of First Nations people to feel empowered — to actually start to think about, ‘What might a business look like, operating out of my community?'” she said.

“We’ve got remarkable artists working out of art centres, but what if we had a modeling agency operating out at Gapuwiyak, for those remarkable young men who were a part of our Country to Couture [fashion show]?”

A woven turtle sculpture on a table, as an art fair goes on in the background.
A woven turtle sculpture from Erub Arts.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)
A woman taps her card on a card reader held by another woman, in front of black walls hung with Aboriginal art works.
Art fairs provide much-needed economic opportunities in remote communities.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

Knowledge shared between cultures and generations

For Karen Rogers, an artist from Ngukurr Arts Centre, the fair was also a chance to pass down skills to family.

“We’ve got my son at the moment, just teaching him how to do lino printing, printing on material,” she said.

“He’s been doing a good job, like framing canvas. I reckon art centers can offer a lot of things for young people, career pathways.”

A smiling woman standing in front of a series of brightly colored artworks displayed on a dark wall, inside a gallery.
Karen Rogers, an artist from Ngukurr Arts.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)
A woman scans her card on a card reader held by another woman in front of Pandanus mats hanging on a wall.
Pandanus mats from East Arnhem Land.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

Ms Rogers said it was fascinating learning about other Indigenous cultures through art, and finding common links.

“This one from Torres Strait, I was really interested because I speak Kriol and they speak different Kriol,” she said.

“They’ve got a dictionary. It was amazing seeing it, because they speak a little bit different to our way of speaking. It was inspiring.”

Two men in traditional Torres Strait Islander costume dance inside an art gallery, before a crowd.
The Abai Sagulau Buai Dance Team from Badu Island in the Torres Strait performing at the fair. (ABC News: Peter Garnish)
pandanus jewelry
Pandanus jewelery is always popular with visitors.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

Diversity on display

From the tropics to the desert, each art center brought its own languages, styles and practices to the floor of the convention centre.

Lex Namponan, from Wik and Kugu Arts Centre, said his father was a major source of inspiration.

“We [saw] our dad when we were 14, 15 doing sculptures and bark painting and everything,” he said.

A man in a plaid shirt sitting down in front of a series of brightly colored paintings and sculptures on display in a gallery.
Lex Namponan, a sculptor with Wik and Kugu Arts. (ABC News: Peter Garnish)

“As we were growing [up] … it gave us the idea for what we’re doing, and now we’re here, traveling around with all our colleagues.

“I’ve got a big show coming up from this moment, back to home, going out country collecting timbers – milky pine, clays, white clay, red clay – from the ground.”

The art fair runs until 4pm today.

A series of sculptures in the shape of dingoes lined up on the floor of an art gallery, in front of paintings displayed on walls.
Lex Namponan’s dingo sculptures.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)


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