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

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

A major event for art lovers across Australia, the fair is held annually at the Darwin Convention Center and allows talented Indigenous artists to bring their unique pieces to a central location and share their stories with the public.

This year’s event is expected to bring millions of dollars to the 78 arts centers represented at the fair, boosting the economy of remote communities across the country.

Hand dyed fabrics from Anindilyakwa Arts. (ABC News: Peter Garnish)
A crowd of people walking down the aisle of an art gallery, with the words
The DAAF drew crowds over the weekend. (ABC News: Peter Garnish)

DAAF President Franchesca Cubillo said arts and culture in remote areas were “the cornerstone of any community”.

“They are the place where opportunities flourish, whether in textile and fashion design, or artists sharing the rich history of bark painting or Western Desert painting,” he said. she declared.

A smiling woman sitting and talking 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 from Hermannsburg Potters – a crowd favorite.(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 salary.

Two people stand at a desk to pay for an artwork, while an art fair takes place in the background.
The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) has recorded sales of $11 million over the past five years.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)
Three people look at brightly colored traditional Aboriginal paintings hanging on the walls of an art gallery.
Participants admired the complexity of desert styles.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

“They are able to get an economic return, and that will allow the next generation of First Nations people to feel empowered – to start asking themselves, ‘What might a business operating out of my community look like?’ “, she added. said.

“We have remarkable artists who work in art centers, but what if we had a modeling agency operating in Gapuwiyak, for these remarkable young men who were part of our country at couture? [fashion show]?”

A woven turtle sculpture on a table, with an art fair 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 adorned with Aboriginal artwork.
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 the Ngukurr Arts Centre, the fair was also an opportunity to pass on skills to her family.

“We have my son right now, who is just teaching him to do lino printing, printing on material,” she said.

“He does good work, like framing paintings. I think art centers can offer a lot of things to young people, career paths.”

A smiling woman standing in front of a series of brightly colored works of art 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 hung on a wall.
Eastern Arnhem Land Pandanus rug.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

Ms. Rogers said it was fascinating to learn about other Indigenous cultures through art and to find common connections.

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

“They have a dictionary. It was amazing to see it, because they speak a little differently to the way we speak. It was inspiring.”

Two men in traditional Torres Strait Islander costume dance in an art gallery, in front of 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 jewelry is always popular with visitors.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

Diversity in the spotlight

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

Lex Namponan of the Wik and Kugu Arts Center said his father was a major inspiration.

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

A man in a plaid shirt sits 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 grew up [up] …it gave us the idea of ​​what we do, and now we are here, traveling with all our colleagues.

“I’ve got a big show coming up from this point on, back home, heading out of the country to pick up woods – milky pine, clays, white clay, red clay – from the ground.”

The art fair runs until 4 p.m. today.

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

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