Festival returns in a huge way

Festival returns in a huge way
Photos by Blueclick Photography

The success of the 13th annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) was “phenomenal” in every aspect, even surpassing organisers’ expectations.

After a two-year scaled-back event, due to COVID, this year’s five-day festival celebrating the dynamic arts and culture of Queensland’s First Peoples returned in all its glory with huge attendances, large sales and a joyous and fun atmosphere.

“The event was phenomenal,” said CIAF marketing and communication manager Jack Wilkie-Jans. “The number 13 proved to be a lucky number for us in our 13th year.

“We made 55,000 (odd) attendees through the Cairns Convention Centre and across other venues. While the final count isn’t in yet, we are expecting close to the $1million mark in sales, which is incredible and demonstrates the generosity of art lovers seeking ethical engagement in genuine Indigenous art.

“We were told most accommodation places including hostels, caravan parks and camping sites were full. It’s been wonderful to see visitors and tourists coming back with open arms and hearts to meet Indigenous artists and creatives. We’re in an economic uncertainty now, so we were very pleased people generously opened their wallets.”

CIAF is Queensland’s largest and most recognised festival showcasing Indigenous arts and culture from both Australian and Torres Strait First Nations Peoples including music, dance, fashion, comedy, art and workshops.

“CIAF helps showcase the longest continuous living culture in the world, and it has been a privilege to see the art fair evolve over the past 13 years,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

Mr Wilkie-Jans said some of the highlights for him were the art fair, the music and the fashion show.

“The works in the art fair were truly fine art, and it was impressive to see the sales especially to institutions and collectors,” he said. “The music at the Tanks Art Centre was sensational. We had local, international and inter-generational performers, which was wonderful.

“There were very high-quality fashion designs that were exceptional in the fashion exhibition. We had 16 incredible collections including two from Cairns schools – Cairns West State School and Peace Lutheran College.”

As with any successful event, Mr Wilkie-Jans said it would not have been possible without the generous support of all their sponsors.

“We can’t thank them enough for helping to make this year’s CIAF such a successful and memorable event,” he said.

Award winners

CIAF and local sponsors generously donated $50,000 towards the professional development of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. The awards encourage artists to increase their profile and creative capacity in the pursuit of innovation and excellence.
This year’s winners are:


Premier’s Award for Excellence
(sponsored by Queensland Government) – Katherine Ngallametta
(of Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Centre)
for Land Centre, 2022;


Art Centre Award
(sponsored by Cairns Regional Council),
Badu Art Centre;


3D Design, Sculpture & Installation Award
(sponsored by Ports North),
Philomena Yeatman (of Yarrabah Art Centre) for Bicornual Basket 1, 2022;


Innovation Award
(sponsored by Holding Redlich),
Tania Major (of Kowanyama Art & Culture Centre), for Dragon Flys Everywhere:
Coming Into The Dry Season, 2022;


Emerging Artist Award
(sponsored by Apunipima Cape York Health Council), Sonja Creek (of Bana Yirriji Art Centre) for Milli & Yunga, 2022;


People’s Choice Award
(sponsored by Fibre Optics NQ),
Lara Fuji (of Badu Art Centre)
for Kazil Imaik (child is born), 2022.