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Creative Culture

Since 2007, Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) has drawn locals and visitors, both online and in person, from across the country and around the world to celebrate First Nations art, design, fashion and culture.

Last year's event was a record-breaking affair with 77 Art Centres presenting more than 8,000 artworks generating millions of dollars in revenue. This year, DAAF shows no sign of slowing down, and returns to light up Larrakia Country with a jam-packed public program and exciting new extended layout.

By Kate Conway

Ursula Raymond is Chair of DAAF Foundation’s (DAAFF) Board, and this year marks her first Art Fair in the role. She says the record-breaking success is a shining reflection of the driving forces working behind the scenes.

“I have to acknowledge the hard work of the team, led by the Executive Director Claire Summers and Artistic Director Shilo McNamee – they’ve been the backbone of DAAF. The previous Chair, Franchesca Cubillo, who was the chair for 11 years, provided great stability to the DAAFF business,” she says.

“They’re pretty big shoes to fill. It’s a privilege for her to pass the baton on to me.”

The vibrant public program of masterclasses, workshops and performances takes place over three huge days, transforming Darwin Convention Centre into a thriving hub brimming with culture and tradition.

From dance performances by Munupi Arts & Crafts Association and Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association, Peppimenarti Dancers and Numbulwar’s Red Flag Dancers, to children’s activities and weaving presented by Anindilyakwa Arts, there is something for everyone.

Talented artists generously share their knowledge and expertise in artist talks and demonstrations, and DAAFF Artistic Director Shilo McNamee says fresh faces showcase their talents on the masterclasses program.

“I’m excited to have artists from the Torres Strait coming over and presenting workshops … In previous years, we’ve had dance troupes from the Torres Strait – and they’re incredible, wonderful, big performances with lots of colour in their costumes – but this year, they focused on bringing artists over to do the workshops,” she says.

“Joey Laifoo is doing a screen-printing workshop, and James Ahmat Senior from Badu Island is doing his pearl shell pendant creations, so people will be able to get a ticket to that workshop and make their own shell pendant.”

The demonstrations were introduced last year, and activating outdoor spaces created an opportunity to shine a spotlight on creative processes.

“We wanted to elevate [the demonstrations] to centre stage, and have a place where artists could be relaxed and really show people what they’re working on. It’s kind of like an open studio – people can watch artists create their work in real time, and see other examples of what the artists make,” McNamee says.

Another benefit of the extended layout is new addition, DAAF Meeting Place, a relaxed outdoor food court featuring tasty tucker and beverages from a range of stall holders to provide a welcoming, usable and relaxing space for Fair-goers.

DAAF makes up part of a formidable entourage of events celebrating First Nations culture and creativity on a national scale in the NT this month, joined by Garma Festival, Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, National Indigenous Music Awards, and SALON Art Projects.

Indigenous Fashion Projects’ highly regarded events, Country to Couture and National Indigenous Fashion Awards, kick off DAAF festivities, and for the first time, the public is invited to the Opening Ceremony to meet with exhibitors and sneak a peek at the covetable artworks.

Art Centres are represented from around the country, from the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara desert lands to the rugged coastlines of Arnhem Land. DAAF offers visitors the chance to ethically purchase artworks with the knowledge that all proceeds go directly back to artists and their communities.

Continuing the successful hybrid format introduced last year, DAAF’s popular digital component returns online to ensure no one misses out.

Fusing the bright showcase of First Nations art with an engaging public program, DAAF is widely regarded as the only national event of its calibre. Raymond encourages attendees to soak up the culturally immersive atmosphere and take the unique opportunity to learn from the artists first-hand.

“I hope they get joy. I hope they get to realise the hard work that goes into everybody’s art practice, I hope that they get to learn something new, and I hope that they take the time to sit down and talk to the artists and learn about them.”

Behind the Cover

The beautiful artwork gracing our cover this month is by Claude Mowaljarlai from Kira Kiro Artists, based at Waringarri Aboriginal Arts on Miriwoong Country in Kununurra. Born and raised in Derby, Western Australia he learned to paint watching his Ngarinyin lawman father record culture through art. His paintings display cultural beliefs, incorporating various incarnations of Wandjina – cloud and rain spirits.

“There is a regular need to paint Wandjina as a part of renewal and maintaining the health of the environment. This painting, 'Freshwater Dreaming', is involved in the renewal and replenishment of the freshwater rivers, creeks and billabongs. The health of these bodies of water is essential to the environment and the health of the people and their Country.” – Claude Mowaljarlai.


Indigenous Fashion Projects

Some of the country’s most revered First Nations artists and fashion designers come together on Larrakia Country for two very special fashion events this month. Read about the exciting flagship events in Culture on the Catwalk.

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair

2023 Public Program

Check out the vibrant public program running alongside DAAF, and be immersed in traditional dance performances, artist masterclasses and talks, material demonstrations, children’s activities, and more! All events free unless otherwise noted.

DAAF Opening Ceremony
Welcoming artists and Art Centres, this dynamic celebration kicks off three days of Art Fair fun. Previously an invite-only soirée, this year members of the public are invited to experience this special event.
WHEN THU 10 AUG | 5.30-8.30PM
COST $75

DAAF Meeting Place
Relax outdoors, refuel with tasty tucker and beverages from a range of local stalls, and take in the sights and sounds of DAAF’s public program.


Workshop with Artists from Anindilyakwa Arts
WHEN FRI 11–SUN 13 AUG | 10.30AM-2PM

Mini Workshop with Darlene Devery


Ghost Net Weaving with Jimmy Thaiday, Erub Arts

Seed Jewellery Making with Ikuntji Arts

Watercolour Painting with Iltja Ntjarra (Many Hands) Art Centre
SAT 12 AUG | 11AM-2PM

Weaving with Regina Wilson, Durrmu Arts
SAT 12 AUG | 11AM-2PM

Pearl Shell Pendants with James Ahmat Senior, Gab Titui (Badu Island)
SUN 13 AUG | 11AM-2PM

Screen printing with Joey Laifoo, Gab Titui (Badu Island)
SUN 13 AUG | 11AM-2PM
COST $95


Printmaking with Solomon Booth from Moa Arts and Joey Laifoo from Gab Titui (Badu Island)
WHEN FRI 11 AUG | 11.30-1.30PM

Carving with James Ahmat Senior from Gab Titui (Badu Island)
WHEN SAT 12 AUG | 11.30-1.30PM

Weaving with Regina Wilson from Durrmu Arts and Jimmy Thaiday from Erub Arts
WHEN SUN 13 AUG | 11.30-1.30PM


Peppimenarti Dancers
WHEN FRI 11 AUG, 11-11.30AM | SAT 12 AUG, 3-3.30PM

Munupi Arts & Crafts Association and Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association
WHEN FRI 11 AUG | 2-2.30PM

Red Flag Dancers
WHEN SUN 13 AUG | 12.30-1.30PM

Thumbnail & inset: 2022 DAAF Opening Ceremony Performance by Abai Sagulau Buai Dance Team from Badu Island, Torres Strait. Photo: Dylan Buckee
Header & inset: Claude Mowaljar, 'Freshwater Dreaming', 2023, natural ochre & pigment on canvas, 125x130cm Images courtesy Kira Kiro Artists
Inset: Claude Mowaljar

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