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Monday, July 15, 2024

A Decade of Weaving Cultures

This year Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) celebrates a decade of shining the spotlight on Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander textile and fashion movement with Woven, a truly special, culturally imbued performance befitting the milestone.

Taking cue from CIAF’s overarching and powerful theme, Weaving our Future: Claiming our Sovereignty this year’s fashion performance is a culmination of a 10 year legacy that started in 2013 with the inaugural ‘Ufla Upla’ Textile Conference and performance.

Since then, CIAF has provided a platform for Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to participate and contribute to the rich fabric that is Australia’s burgeoning Indigenous fashion movement.  

With the purpose of promoting Queensland’s contemporary Indigenous design, diversity and inclusion, the fashion performance is a much-loved highlight in the annual program alongside art exhibitions, workshops, markets, music and dance, awards, and social gatherings.

CIAF’s Fashion Performance Curator Lynelle Flinders said the organisation had received an unprecedented response from Queensland’s emerging and established Indigenous fashion designers wanting to participate in this year’s historical event. 

CIAF’s fashion performance has been and continues to be life-changing.

“From Quandamooka Country in southeast Queensland to the Cape and Torres Strait, we are pleased to announce a stellar line up designers who will individually express the Woven theme in what will be a collectively powerful and engaging showcase,” Ms Flinders said.

Swapping catwalk for a Country inspired cultural performance, presented in the atmospheric ‘round’ of a former World War II oil tank (Tank 3, Tanks Arts Centre), 18 Indigenous models, wearing intricately woven body adornments and hand-dyed and painted screen printed fabrics will show the work and creativity of 15 designer collections.  

In a collaborative working partnership with choreographers and professional dancers, brother and sister duo Mykelle and Jaydn Bingarape, Ms Flinders said the trio are working hard to create a world-class performance that ascends beyond a fashion event to become a transformative and culturally immersive experience with a powerful message.

CIAF’s Artistic Director Francoise Lane said this year’s performance is a coming of age destined to challenge conventions and push beyond the boundaries of Indigenous fashion innovation in contemporary Australia. 

“CIAF’s Woven performance will be exciting and much more than fashion for fashion’s sake. In the same way that we expect visual artists will respond individually and collectively to this year’s theme, our fashion designers will create their own version of truth telling, knowledge sharing and cultural exchange, albeit using different mediums, skill and technique,” Ms Lane said.

Participating designers this year include the collaborative partnership of Holly McInnes and Simone Arnol from Yarrabah’s Gunggandji Country, Delvene Cockatoo-Collins from Quandamooka Country and Emily Beckley from the Torres Strait Islands.

After learning of her successful bid to present a collaborative collection with Aunty Simone Arnol in this year’s CIAF fashion performance, Holly McInnes said she was “really excited”.

Since graduating Year 12 in 2022, Holly, a former St Mary’s student, is enjoying a gap year before heading to Brisbane in 2024 with plans to study fashion design.

According to Ms McInnes, she and Aunt Simone, an experienced multi-disciplinary artist and fashion designer, will create eight looks (four looks each) to comprise their ‘Guyu, Lemon & Rice’ collection.

“Guyu, the Gunggandji word for fish, along with lemon and rice, is our interpretation of the team because the three elements together make a meal that weaves people and families together,” said Ms McInness.

From her home on Ngurupai (Horn Island), Meriam-Samsep and Panai of Maguiag women, Emily Beckley said she is ecstatic to be a part of CIAF’s iconic fashion performance.

“This platform enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders like me to showcase our talents, lifestyle, and culture to a wider audience. Together we can make an impact in a positive way,” Ms Beckley said.

Despite being an artist for over 40 years with two collections in the National Gallery of Australia, Ms Beckley says she is still a relative newcomer to the fashion industry with just five years of experience.

For CIAF’s 2023 Woven fashion performance, Ms Beckley will create eight looks that will draw inspiration from her surroundings and traditional practices.

“My collection will feature the geometric patterns and imagery of Mer (Murray Island) bridal pendants to tell an origin story of turtles, fish, pearls and so on. My art is concerned with reviving and maintaining cultural practices,” she said.

CIAF’s three ticketed fashion performances will be enjoyed by festival goers in the atmospheric round of Tank 3, Tanks Arts Centre on Thursday 13 July and Friday 14 July 2023.

Tickets are on sale now

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