Delivering a World-Class Aboriginal Art Festival During the Pandemic

By Jessie Zhang
Jessie Zhang
Jessie Zhang
Jessie Zhang is a reporter based in Sydney covering Australian news, focusing on health and environment. Contact her at
July 5, 2020Updated: July 5, 2020

Australia’s largest Indigenous arts event will go online for the first time in its 14 year history.

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) will immerse artists and art lovers in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, in a mammoth program that aims to bring the same buzz and life of the live event.

The not-for-profit DAAF Foundation will stage the event over a period of nine days from 6-14 August.

Minister for Tourism, Sport, and Culture, Lauren Moss commended the team for endeavouring to protect and preserve Indigenous culture.

“The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair is the only national event of its kind and has secured a reputation as the country’s most significant and internationally recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts event,” she said in a media release.

DAAF Foundation Executive Director Claire Summers said the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into the works but it also reminded her of the importance of recording the ancient stories.

“The pandemic really brought to our attention how critical it was to make sure that we are focusing on cultural and language preservation,” Summers said.

Epoch Times Photo
Cassandra Trevilyan-Hayes from the Mimi Arts booth at the 2019 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. (Dylan Buckee)

Moving to a digital platform has also made it accessible to a global audience.

“Creativity can be expressed and shared in many ways, so moving beyond the boundaries of a physical fair made sense in 2020, particularly given our collective yearning for a sense of connection and meaning as we move out of lockdown,” Summers said.

Audiences and participants will have the unique opportunity to purchase art directly from Indigenous-owned art centres. They can also watch vibrant cultural dance performances, join in with artist talks and panel discussions featuring Indigenous special guests, as well as children’s activities, and food experiences in an all-Aboriginal directed project.

Aboriginal Agency

Summers said that the creation of the DAAF Foundation in 2012 was a critical step in the evolution of the fair because the event became owned and operated by Aboriginal people.

“[This] means that there is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agency,” Summers told the ABC.

DAAF is internationally celebrated as a world-class event. Last year’s fair drew 2,000 artists and an attendance of over 17,000. It also generated $2.84 million in art sales, with 100 percent of sales going back to the centres, artists, and their communities. The fair had a record impact of more than $13.2 million in the Northern Territory.