Cairns Indigenous Art Fair 2022 – Masters of Country

CIAF-Anne-Nunn-Studio-2022-photo-by-Edwina-CircuittAustralia’s premier Art Fair and Queensland’s quintessential showcase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) is back in 2022 with a vibrant and multifaceted program of exhibitions and events between Wednesday 6 and Sunday 10 July 2022.

Encompassing visual and performing arts from Queensland’s two very distinct and diverse cultures, CIAF’s 13th season features the work of approximately 300 visual artists and 150 performers across the mostly free, multidimensional program that fosters an inclusive and ethical marketplace for aspiring and established art collectors, curators, and the public.

In 2022 CIAF comes of age, transitioning from Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal to the newly refurbished and impressive surroundings of the award-winning, Cairns Convention Centre, that will expand the number and scale of works on show to visitors within a safe and climate-controlled environment.

This year will also sadly, signal the completion and seven-year contribution of CIAF’s Artistic Director Janina Harding in delivering her eighth fair (marking the end of her tenure), she has chosen the theme, Masters of Country: An artistic celebration of Queensland First Peoples’ knowledge and resourcefulness of Indigenous plants and trees.

Capping off a series of related themes that talk to Country through a focus on sacred sites, water preservation and climate change and the continuation of intergenerational and cultural storytelling, Masters of Country has provoked a rich and expansive response from the state’s emerging and established artists.

“Queensland has the most diverse Indigenous species of any state or territory, with 14,000 species known species,” said Ms Harding. “It is not a coincidence that Queensland’s First Peoples have an innate connection with Indigenous plants and trees.”

“We were born into the oldest living culture in the world. It is no wonder that we have a distinct knowledge regarding the use of plants and trees from our homeland.”

“We have always had and always will have experts on plant knowledge, so that in today’s terms our people are botanists, doctors, nurses, chefs, nutritionists, gardeners, architects, builders, pharmacists, arborists, physicists, and horticulturists.”

“Queensland First Peoples also have oral stories, and lived experience derived from the many trees on Country. We have birthing trees for childbirth, scarred trees for watercraft and utensils, tree markers for significant or sacred sites, knot trees for directional signposts on Country and carving to tell our cultural stories. Trees are our history books and a testament of our resourcefulness,” she said.

CIAF’s inspiring Masters of Country theme will connect the Symposium, Art Fair exhibition, new commissioning work, Big Sculpture Showcase (featuring 17 large installations on show and for sale at the Cairns Convention Centre), and highly anticipated Fashion Performance on Thursday 7 July and Friday 8 July within the atmospheric rainforest surrounds of Tanks Arts Centre.

And Friday night just keeps getting bigger with four of Australia’s funniest people, the Aboriginal Comedy Allstars (Kevin Kropinyeri, Steph Tisdell, Andy Saunders, and Sean Choolburra), straight after fashion at Tanks Arts Centre.

CIAF’s innovative spirit and regard as the pioneer of Australia’s Indigenous fashion industry will be celebrated in an exhibition held at the Court House Gallery during this year’s event, (open from Thursday 30 June to Saturday 30 July 2022).

Co-curated by CIAF’s Artistic Director Janina Harding and artist Francoise Lane of Indij Design, CIAF Fashion Story will showcase some of CIAF’s best fashion moments while taking a historic look at the region’s textile and design movement.

According to Ms Lane, in essence, CIAF Fashion Story will showcase Queensland First Peoples’ fashion design, wearable art and performance as seen on the runway and on Country in the lead up and through the pandemic. The exhibition’s official opening will take place on Thursday 7 July at 10.00am.

Continuing to grow its performing arts platform, CIAF’s program highlights include Music in the Tank in the intimate surrounds of Tanks Arts Centre (Saturday 9 July) featuring Miiesha (Acoustic) and Frank Yamma.

And, prior to that on Thursday 7 July, the satellite event, world premiere of JUTE Theatre Company’s Campfire to Stage Light – a new and integrative work by one of the Far North’s most respected musicians, artists and storytellers, David Hudson.

In preparing to deliver her final CIAF, Ms Harding is looking forward and to welcoming visitors and collectors to what she describes, a much-loved convergence in tropical Cairns.

“We hope that you can join us as we come together for the first time in a while, to yarn and celebrate some of the finest First Peoples’ artistic and cultural expression in the world,”said MsHarding.

“As we all focus on the amazing art and cultural expression, we are reminded that First Peoples’ sovereignty was never ceded, Always Was, Always Will Be… Enjoy!”

CIAF was established by the Queensland Government in 2009 as a strategic initiative of Backing Indigenous Arts which aims to build stronger, more sustainable, and ethical Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts industry in the State.

The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) takes place 6 – 10 July 2022. Tickets on sale Friday 3 June. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Anne Nunn Studio, 2022 – photo by Edwina Circuitt