Aurukun artist Janet Koongotema has won the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair’s top art award for 2023, the Premier’s Award for Excellence. The Winchanam Elder’s work is presented by ReDot Fine Art Gallery and Dreamcoat Paint Studio in association with the Wik and Kugu Arts Centre. The 86-year-old’s career has soared this year after being selected as a finalist in the 2023 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and the 2023 Wynne Prize.
The CIAF judging panel comprising three of Australia’s leading First Nations artists and creative industry practitioners, Archie Moore, Tony Albert and Leitha Assan, remarked on Janet’s unique style and striking use of colour. “Her intrinsic knowledge of Country lays claim to sovereignty, strength, and resilience of her people. Stunning work,” they said.
Janet has been exhibiting her dramatic colour compositions at CIAF since 2010 with Aurukun Shire Council’s social enterprise, the Wik and Kugu Arts Centre, and this year has a solo exhibition with ReDot Fine Art Gallery and Dreamcoat Paint Studio. Prior to picking up the paintbrush Janet was known for her weaving, making dilly bags and pandanus fruit bowls from fibres collected from her Country around Archer River.