Q&A with Janina Harding

We caught up with Janina Harding, Artistic Director of CIAF for a quick chat.

Image: Sid Bruce Shortjoe, Janina Harding, Kristen Fagan. Blueclick Photography.

The 9th annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) opens 12 July and runs until 15 July 2018. The fair brings together indigenous art centres, commercial and public galleries, artist collectives, studios and arts organisations to sell and exhibit the work of Queensland's established and emerging First Nations artists. The three-day event also features a Collectors & Curators Program facilitated by Hetti Perkins and Tony Albert, a series of talks, short films, fashion and wearable art, traditional and contemporary dance and music program, and children's activities & education. It is the only dedicated Indigenous art market in Australia that exclusively profiles the artwork of Queensland born or based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and includes both art centres and commercial galleries in a single location. 

Artistic Director, Janina Harding has been with CIAF since 2015. 

What's the feedback been to this year's fair so far?

Janina: By all accounts, the people I’ve come across here in Cairns are excited, they’re looking forward to it, and will try to get to everything. Those that came last year, are curious to see how far we can raise the bar, which is easily done, given the calibre of talented artists presenting at CIAF 2018. Social media likes and comments have been great and a good way to promote artists and their works.
CIAF creates an ethical marketplace that educates audiences through Indigenous knowledge and control and personal engagement with the artists. What has been the impact of the Fake Art campaign and recent inquiry on CIAF?

Gabrielle from the Indigenous Art Code had a booth in the CIAF Art Market last year to educate and gather feedback from buyers and artists. I think they are  doing a great job in promoting how Fake  Art harms artists and communities. The inquiry will be at CIAF 2018, so people can continue to engage and have their say, which is a great opportunity, hopefully legislation is not that far off. I would hate to think we’ll be still talking about Fake Art at CIAF 2019.
What are you most excited about in this year's program?

There are a few exhibitions that I’ve co-curated this year, so really excited to see art centre artists’ respond to the theme “Country” at the art fair. There’s also a special exhibition at Cairns Art Gallery, North by East West exploring pearl shell carving from the Torres Strait and Kimberley Coast. At the Tanks Art Centre there’s an exhibition that places culture at the fore, reigniting the transference of knowledge and language by Elder artists to young people.
Why did you decide to become an arts manager and what drives your practice?

I kind of fell into the arts manager role, some 28 years ago. It has always given me great satisfaction to assist artists in realising their dream. To me, artists are the cultural ambassadors of this country, they can say so much about the First Peoples’ experience through their work.
This year’s NAIDOC week theme celebrates the essential role that women have played - and continue to play - as active and significant role models at the community, local, state and national levels. What does this mean for you?
I think our women are the glue to our communities. I was thrilled to hear that this year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘Because of Her We Can’. My mother, Eleanor Harding, was a great role model for me and my siblings. I doubt whether I would be in this position today without her activism and voice for change.

The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is held at the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal. Most events, including the fair itself, are free to attend. For more information and the 2018 Program visit https://ciaf.com.au/

Esther Anatolitis, NAVA's Executive Director, is looking forward to meeting everyone at CIAF this year and making great plans together.