“Water is Sacred”, CIAF 2020 Fashion Showcase

The “Water is Sacred” fashion showcase is set to be the highlight of Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) for 2020. This year CIAF has gone digital due to COVID-19. The incredible celebration of Indigenous creatives, artists and culture has been running throughout this week in the form of live stream presentations, performances, webinars, workshops, community spotlights, virtual gallery exhibitions and conversations. Tonight is the premiere of the much anticipated “Water is Sacred” fashion showcase. The show explores “sustainable fashion, wearable art/design and a fusion of contemporary movement & cultural dance, whilst delivering a Climate Change message” (CIAF, 2020).

“Shimmer” collection designed by Simone Anol & Djunngaal Elders Group. Image sourced from CIAF.

 “Water is mystical, religious, powerful, revered and feared. It is the tie that binds everything, both animate and inanimate regardless of the outcome. It is core to life for Indigenous peoples, therefore protecting and managing water is to be a custodial and intergenerational responsibility - Water is Sacred.....” - CIAF 

“Water is Sacred” is directed and curated by Simone Arnol and Bernard Singleton. Together they have put together this incredible show, presenting 7 different collections from Indigenous designers. These include Sown in Time, Bana Bulmba, Shimmer, Ailan Style, Guulil, Ghost Net Totems and Bana-Yirrji. Each collection represents water and sustainability in a unique way. The designers were encouraged to utilise their techniques and practices both old and new, as well as explore and experiment with sustainable materials and practices.

This showcase is a collaboration of many different arts practices including dance. The runway will include contemporary movement and cultural dance choreographed by Hans Ahwang. Hans grew up on Thursday Island and the Island of Moa, where he learnt many traditional dances of the Eastern Torres Strait Islands. He has also trained at the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association Dance College (NAISDA) add link and has since become a leading Torres Strait Islander contemporary and traditional dancer. These two styles are both integrated in the choreography of the showcase. The movements are designed to accentuate both the meaning and the beautiful flow of the clothing just like water.

“Shimmer” collection designed by Simone Anol and Djunngaal Elders Group. Image sourced from CIAF.

One of the highlight collections is curator and designer Simone Arnol’s collection, “Shimmer”. The collection was created in collaboration with the Djunngaal Elders Group. Simone’s heritage is with Gunggandji Peoples, her father's people. She combines her strong connection to family and country with unique modern designs that convey powerful messages about her people. “Shimmer” represents the reflection of the moonlight on water. This reflection is seen as a welcoming path to Ancestors, “water runs as if to the moon” (CIAF, 2020). The reflection of the moon over the water mirrors the need to “reflect and to sustain ourselves culturally, environmentally and most importantly physically” (CIAF, 2020). The collection works with flowing lines and shimmering fabrics in dark blues, greys and silvers representing the shimmer of the moon and water.

“Guulil” collection designed by Hope Vale Arts and Culture Centre & QUT Fashion. Image sourced from CIAF.

“Guulil” is another collection which stands in terms of its modernity and creativity. The collection is a collaboration of Hope Vale Arts and Culture Centre and QUT Fashion. The title “Guulil” is jellyfish in the local Guugu Yimithirr language. It signifies the true harmony that can be created when every element of nature works together. This serves as a reminder of the importance of working in harmony with water and nature. Since 2018, QUT fashion students have been collaborating with Hope Vale to design and make collections with textiles based on the artists’ paintings. For this year's CIAF the students and artists have created a modern collection which combines contemporary garments with digitally projected artworks. The effect is beautiful and creates an almost underwater like illusion.

“Water is life. In all corners of the globe people confront both opportunity and tragedy relating to water. Sometimes there is too much, other times, too little. But increasingly, the presence of, or absence of water is chaotic, with its unpredictable patterns forever resulting in natural disaster.” - Simone Arnol

This quote reminds us all of the importance of water and the drastic effects it can have on our lives and our environment. It is a statement that perfectly encapsulates why water is sacred.

If you’d like to watch “Water is Sacred” it will be streaming at 7pm tonight (Friday 21st) on the CIAF Facebook site which you can access here. If you can’t catch the showcase tonight they will be uploading a full photo gallery and videos on the CIAF website.