Now in its 11th year, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair is back. It’s an art fair by name, but as Claire Summers, executive director of the DAAF Foundation explains, “we completely annihilate the art fair model”. Membership of the Foundation comprises Indigenous-owned and operated arts centres, ensuring, as Summers puts it, that “the event will always belong to the art centres. [They] are often the key cultural and economic hubs of remote Aboriginal communities, and we’re here to support that model”.
DAAF, says Summers, is instrumental in “breaking down the tyranny of distance”. This year, DAAF will welcome first-time participants from as far afield as Yinjaa-Barni Art near Karratha and Bidyadanga Art Centre near Broome, WA; Pormpuraaw Arts in Far North Queensland and Kaiela Arts Shepparton, Victoria. It’s rare to encounter art and artists from such disparate regions in the same place at the same time.
As well as an opportunity to meet artists and art centre workers, and become familiar with the breadth of remote contemporary Indigenous art practice, DAAF “sends such positive messages back to the wider Australian community about what’s happening in remote communities”, says Summers. It’s a story of thriving, living, contemporary art from one of the most ancient cultures on earth.
DAAF started in 2007 as a complement to the prestigious National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, and the two continue to run concurrently. That the National Indigenous Music Awards are held on the same weekend is “no mistake”, assures Summers, making this a time when “the best are in town in Darwin for a celebration of cultural excellence”.