Saturday, 18 August 2012

All in a day's work

Entrance to Mossman Gorge Centre

Wow! Crazy times! I am in the middle of the biggest three weeks of my annual work calendar and tomorrow it is only two weeks until I get married. I have so much I want to write about and absolutely zero time to write about it (except for these precious few moments tonight before I pass out cold on my bed).

This weekend is the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF). My organisation historically does three months' regular trade in a week during this time. The amount of work to prepare for and clean up from such intensity is immense, but it is very rewarding and it's great to catch up with so many people in the industry and see what artists have been working on since last year.

The two artists we are presenting in our galleries have absolutely knocked it out of the park: both have developed the work in their exhibitions as a result of residencies and both have reached a new level of technical mastery and clarity of self-expression. I'm really happy for both of them and proud to be able to sell their work, although, really, it's selling itself, I'm just holding on to my hat trying to keep up with demand! We were also beyond privileged today when Seaman Dan offered to sing a song as part of the opening ceremonies for the exhibitions. He's just released a new CD at age 83, so much for his plan to retire from singing at 80! He was amazing, of course.

In the lead up to CIAF I went on two great road trips. One to the Girringun Art Centre in Cardwell, and another to the recently opened Mossman Gorge Centre, which is an initiative of the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community and employs 80% of the community.

Sugar mill, Tully
The trip to Girringun is three hours' drive each way, into the coastal country south of Cairns that was so devastated by Cyclone Yasi in February 2011. The Girringun artists were in the pre-CIAF production frenzy and two workmates and I went there to bring screenprint editions to the artists to sign. I won't post photos from the Art Centre because every which way you turned a photo opportunity would be a breach of artists' copyright since they weren't all there to ask permission of; however, the mood in the Art Centre was uplifting—everyone was excited about their work and there was a lot of playful teasing going on between the artists, making for a fun and funny working environment. It was also a perfect Far North Queensland mid-winter's day and it was sugar cane harvest, so the air was thick with sweet smoke and dust, and the steam plumes coming out of the sugar mills along the way were beautiful in the afternoon sunlight. It was one of those days in life that is just perfection in every way, right down to working on the tan during a late lunch of barra burger on the beachfront with a view over to Hinchinbrook Island.

Cardwell looking to Hinchinbrook Island
Mossman is another sugar town, but an hour and a bit to the north of Cairns. It is one of my favourite towns in the region. The Visitor Centre is the culmination of 20 years of work from the local Indigenous community to make their vision of a sustainable way to have tourists come to view their Country a reality and provide jobs for the community. As a $20M development, it is a massive achievement for the community and their funding partners and has consistently hosted 800–1,000 visitors a day during the two months it has been open—that's equivalent to a CIAF a fortnight! The Centre is environmentally and culturally sensitive and stunning and will disappear into the rainforest in a few years as the forest regrows from the reclaimed sugar cane field the Centre is built upon. It was a very happy day. 

I may complain about a lot of things in this life, but a boring job is never one of them.

Mossman Gorge Centre
Sugar cane field near Mossman

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