Darwin: The Place to be in August

Darwin Festival Park 2022. Photo credit: Foldback Media for Darwin Festival.

Each year at the start of August, Darwin becomes the focal point for Australia’s best First Nations artists from a variety of disciplines. The opening weeks of August are host to the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF), National Indigenous Fashion Awards, the National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs), Darwin Festival, and Telstra’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAAs) housed at the Museum and Art Gallery NT (MAGNT). It’s a remarkable time to be in the Top End and presented an opportune moment for the TFFF to visit the city and take in these important events in Australia’s cultural calendar.

Having postponed this visit last year due to a COVID outbreak, Tim, Gina, Lucy, Neal, and Hannah were pleased to make the trip in 2022. It’s hard to overstate the cultural and economic impact that this critical mass of activity has for Darwin and the flow on benefits back to remote and regional Indigenous communities.

The DAAF team delivered an impressive feat this year — returning to an in-person delivery of the three-day event whilst continuing to offer the online marketplace which exploded with popularity in 2020 and 2021. As a partner of DAAF for several years, it was an occasion to finally be on the ground experiencing the flurry of activity in the Convention Centre, and reconnecting with many Art Centres that TFFF has supported or is currently funding, including Milingimbi Art and Culture, Ngaruwanajirri, Bábbarra Women’s Centre and Bindi Mwerre Anthu Artists.

TFFF congratulates DAAF for curating a fantastic program while continuing to grow the Fair each year (over 70 Art Centres participated in 2022), always conscious of providing the best experience for Indigenous Art Centres and Fair attendees. The TFFF team certainly returned home with heavier suitcases and over-flowing carry-on luggage.

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair 2022. Photo credit: Dylan Buckee.

The opportunity to meet with Darwin Festival’s outgoing and incoming Artistic Directors was a welcome one. Felix Preval leaves after six years and hands the baton on to Kate Fell now, formerly of Brisbane Festival. It was great to celebrate Felix’s success and learn a little bit about Kate’s vision for the Festival’s future. We also attend two shows in the Festival program, Wana: Spirit a collaboration between NT Dance Company and Darwin Symphony Orchestra, and Raghav Handa’s TWO a piece of contemporary Indian Kathak, presented at Browns Mart Theatre. 

Our travelling party attended a panel hosted by Agency, which gave us an insight into the key issues facing Aboriginal Art Centres in remote and regional areas. It was important to hear from community leaders and Elders about their cultural leadership practices and, in their own words, what they most want for their communities and artists.

At various stages of the weekend, we were joined by sector colleagues who were also visiting Darwin including Charlie Cush and Louise Bezzina from Brisbane Festival, Amanda Hayman and Troy Casey from Aboriginal Art Co, Fiona Menzies and Jayne Lovelock from Creative Partnerships Australia, and Erin Lew Fatt a current Australian Rural Leadership Program scholarship recipient. Each of our colleagues added interesting and valuable insight to our experience and it was a good reminder of the collegiate and informed nature of the Australian arts sector.

Thank you to both Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and Darwin Festival for hosting the TFFF during our time in Darwin, and for making our visit both enjoyable and educational.