Australia has been so successful in building and maintaining a market for the Aboriginal art of its deserts, there’s now a movement to reclaim the work of other indigenous peoples. The Australian details how the state of Queensland is putting time and effort into creating a showcase for thousands of visitors:
The event marked the great crescendo of Queensland’s newest exercise in cultural engineering: more than $10 million has been committed to strengthening the art of the Cape and far north. Pioneering art centres and art hubs have been set up, dance projects and creative training ventures are thick on the ground. Dealers from Brisbane and the southern capitals have heard the call: new far north Queensland artists are being snapped up by established galleries, while a large contemporary venue, Canopy Arts, opened on the weekend in central Cairns with its own diverse show.
The aim of all this largesse, of course, is to highlight the cultural traditions of the state’s remote north: to redress the imbalance that sees indigenous art lovers focus almost exclusively on the central deserts, Kimberley and Top End. Ever since the Queensland Art Gallery’s landmark Story Place exhibition of 2003, the dream of a well-established remote area indigenous art sector has haunted the state. Even the art-makers have felt the call.
As Cape York ceramic artist Thanakupi puts it, “I have been making my art all my life now, as we all have for quite a long time: baskets, body paint, spears, woomeras, bark painting, so many things. It always seemed strange to me, seeing all the wonderful indigenous art from desert and Northern Territory and Western Australia, why not us?
“How did it happen that it took 400 years for us to be rediscovered?”
Shining Lights of the North (The Australian)