Designer Simone Arnol with Models L-R Hans Ahwang, James Stev…lor, Thalia Brown
Swapping catwalk for Country to showcase Queensland’s First Nations designers’ creative response to sacred sites and places of significance, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) presents its culturally charged fashion event, Of Spirit & Story, to the world online.
In delivering this year’s eighth fashion showcase both digitally and differently, CIAF will leverage the success of its 2020 online presentation that was viewed by a global audience spanning 85 countries.
Of Spirit & Story curator, Clinton Naina (Erub / Ku Ku) was joined by choreographer Hans Ahwang (Moa Island), to produce this year’s fashion showcase encompassing 10 inspired collections from Queensland’s emerging and established Indigenous designers and artists as shown on Country by Indigenous models from across Far North Queensland.
Combining high production values and performance, Of Spirit & Story is a rich and culturally imbued presentation set and filmed in some of Queensland’s most pristine Country including majestic sea and rainforest settings.
For each collection, the audience is taken on a new and different journey that interprets the designer’s artistic response to sacred sites and places of significance along with their stories of Country and the importance of preserving its vast resources.
CIAF’s artistic director Janina Harding said Of Spirt & Story encompasses a powerful narrative spanning sustainable fashion, wearable art, and design within a creative fusion of contemporary and traditional elements throughout.
“This performance has never been about fashion for fashion’s sake; the message is always significant, if not more so, than the garments on show,” Ms Harding said.
“We know how important it is to control and protect our sacred sites and places. On our homelands or in our regions there are various ecological forms such as rainforest, rocky terrain, mountains, waterways, beaches, and land that hold cultural significance or historical value or both. We have stories that relate to the Dreaming as well as places that are pivotal to our lived experience. Sacred sites and places of significance cannot be replaced. In the same way, our knowledge is also irreplaceable,” she said.
Designer Irene Robinson workend by Amariah Thomas
Clinton Naina said designers were asked to consider their own memories, lived experience and observations to be told through a lens of Blak sovereignty, lore, songlines and family or by taking a culture versus colonisation approach covering imperialism, capitalism, mining, desecration and destruction.
“In 2021 we are taking a broad, inclusive, and unified approach that could even be termed non-binary spanning gender, body type, opinions and perspectives. We are embracing our difference from the stories we tell, to the way we consider spirituality and what is sacred. Regardless of who we are, where we are situated or related in the bigger picture scheme of things it is important that we convey everyone as a collective, unified people,” Mr Naina said.
According to Mr Naina, designers have included one or more themes in their collection translated visually through stories beautifully manifested into fashion, wearable art and contemporary body adornments.
Hans Ahwang, who has performed, modelled, mentored, and choreographed several CIAF fashion performances to date embraced the creative process of infusing this year’s theme with movements and dance formations evoking the power and protest message underpinning Of Spirit & Story.
“This year it was about capturing the essence and disparity of two worlds that collide – very much like oil and water.
“CIAF fashion performers rose to the challenge of not just wearing the clothes but learning and presenting rhythmic and hypnotic movement to guide the visual narrative and soundscape as it unfolds. It was very much a collaborative process,” Mr Ahwang said.
A cast and crew comprising 13 Indigenous models – both experienced mentors and first timers are featured in the program presenting 10 fashion collections in a creative, and cultural showcase.
Participating designers are Bana Yirriji Art Centre, Irene Robinson, Lynelle Flinders (Sown in Time), Cairns TAFE Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Cultural Arts students, Hopevale Art & Culture Centre, Pormpuraaw Art & Culture, Yarrabah Arts Centre & Cultural Precinct featuring Francois Lane of Indij Design, Yindilli – Raelea Wangullay Connolly-Neal, Magpie Goose and Simone Arnol & Bernard Singleton.
Hopevale Art & Culture in collab with QUT – model Thalia Brown
Watch Now & Visit Online here.
Feature image: Blueclick Photography, Veronica Sagredo. Designer Irene Robinson – Model Amariah Thomas.