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{Roy McIvor ~ Web of Life}

Is this amazing riot of colour and texture the first thing to pop into your mind when you think ‘Australian Indigenous Art’?

Because I have to be honest – until last Tuesday evening, it wasn’t what came to my mind, and I’m a born and bred Aussie – and one interested in the arts, no less!

I had a very dry, almost ‘historical’ idea in my head as to what Indigenous art was – and I am very happy to have had that blown out of the water after my visit to the Canopy Artspace in Cairns.

“Canopy Artspace is a privately run space combining galleries, artist’s studios and a printmaking workshop that are dedicated to showcasing Queensland’s indigenous artists and providing the facilities to nurture the region’s artists of the future.” {1}

Meet Avrill Quaill – director of the Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair, who met and guided us through the space last Tuesday evening. She’s a passionate advocate of Indigenous art, and also the artistic director of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.

{image by Kerry Trapnell}

We were also honoured with a traditional ‘Welcome to Country’ by local Aboriginal man Seith Fourmile, who also spoke a little about the history of his people and mine (and some of the terrible things that happened in the war when the English invaded).

As a technical first-generation-Australian (both my parents were born in other countries, though my Grandmother was Australian and our history goes back to convict times) it was humbling to hear this little snippet of oral history and realise that Seith’s people have lived on this land for thousands of years.

{Image by fellow blogger Stuart Flatt}

After our welcome, we heard from local artist Alick Tipoti, who spoke to us about his collection of traditional-style masks with a twist – they’re actually made from fiberglass!

He spoke of how he had tried to capture the essence of the traditional mask-making of his home island… but that there were some elements of the process that were sacred, and that the only ‘true’ masks could be found back home.

Another local artist – Ken Thaiday – shared his tribute to his Uncle Koiki… whom you might know better as Eddie Mabo.

Ken makes these amazing pieces with wood and fishing line and paint – pieces of art that move symbolically – like this piece that shows Eddie Mabo rising from the land and sea he fought for. We were the first to see it – it will be making a trip to James Cook University in Townsville soon.

This connection to tradition, history, and spirit really reverberated throughout all of the works I saw at the gallery…

{Shaun Edwards ~ Wild Ginger}

I got a fellow blogger to snap this photo of me in front of Elliot Koonutta’s piece Burning the Land Making it Healthy #2 – as I realised I had inadvertently dressed to match it.

The gallery and studio space were not the end of the tour, however. There is also an AMAZING printing workshop at Canopy.

Master printer Theo Tremblay runs a number of printing machines from the space – printing the work of local indigenous artists.  Works created in the Editions Tremblay workshop have been acquired by major galleries and museums in Australia and internationally {2}.

I loved this beautiful old printer…

I also had the chance to visit another fabulous art space in Cairns – KickArts – which I’ll be posting about soon.

I was pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of the art scene in Cairns – I definitely plan to get back there with Nick and the van sometime and spend longer checking it out.

If you happen to be heading Cairns-ward in August, make sure to check out the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair – August 17-19 – which is Australia’s premier Indigenous arts fair.

 All photos in this post were taken by me unless otherwise stated. This trip to North Queensland was courtesy of Tourism Queensland.

{1}+ {2}  Canopy Artspace Website


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