Following the internationally-acclaimed Archibald Prize exhibition, Cairns Art Gallery (CAG) is returning to its roots to celebrate the region’s best art across the themes of rituals, textiles and tradition.

The Gallery's now hosting two incredible collections of work – RITUAL: the past in the present and Contemporary Indigenous Textiles: From Australia’s Tropic Zone. 

Like all its exhibitions, CAG is free for all to visit and open daily. 


RITUAL: the past in the present

15 May - 22 August 2021

Cairns Art Gallery

Presented in Partnership with the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF)

RITUAL: the past in the present is a fascinating exploration of the many complex histories, traditions and beliefs which inform contemporary Indigenous artists in our region and others in the Asia Pacific.

The exhibition hosts the works of over 30 artists, responding to the practice, processes and performative nature of rituals.

Following three main themes – life cycles, healing and renewal, and spiritual practices – RITUAL highlights issues around identity and cultural continuity.

Heather Koowootha’s stunning new series of watercolour paintings represent the ritual significance of local native flora based on their medicinal and spiritual values.

Her botanical illustrations draw upon knowledge systems and cultural practices of her parents and their ancestors.


Grace Lillian Lee’s outstanding new installation explores traditional craft techniques within a contemporary fashion and art context.

The work was created in response to the life of her grandmother, Marcella Lillian Lee (nee Berolah).

In 1949, Marcella was married to a Chinese man on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait and wore a Western white dress.

Through the presentation of twelve sculptural costumes, Lee investigates the impact of Western culture and beliefs on ceremonial dress in marriage rites across the Torres Strait Islands.

Naomi Hobson is another acclaimed local artist with a compelling new photographic series in RITUAL, in which she has drawn upon the rituals associated with New Year celebrations in Coen.

Also included in RITUAL are regional artists Brian Robinson, Janet Fieldhouse, Joel Sam, Alair Pambegan, Carl Fourmile, Bernard Singleton Jnr, Simone Arnol, Arthur Koo’ekka Pambegan Jnr and Peggy Kasabad Lane.

Contemporary Indigenous Textiles

From Australia’s Tropic Zone

Court House Gallery

5 June - 4 September 2021

This landmark exhibition, the first of its kind in Australia, presents exciting new hand-printed Indigenous textiles from remote communities across far north Australia.

Community-led Aboriginal Art Centres in the Northern Territory first explored screen-printed textiles as a new creative medium in the 1960s.

    Today, these textiles are a nationally and internationally acclaimed form of cultural expression that enables the artists to share storylines about ancestral beings and country, identity, material culture, and life forms that include bush foods, animals, birds and marine life.

    This exhibition is a curatorial collaboration between Cairns Art Gallery and Bobbie Ruben, a nationally acclaimed Indigenous textile mentor and facilitator, as well as participating arts centres and artists.

    The exhibition is shown at the Court House Gallery.

    During this confusing kaleidoscope (COVID-19), humanity has responded – both by instinct and design – to refashion and reassert rituals in the most striking ways.
    Michael Do
    Art Curator, Sydney Opera House

    This story originally appeared in Tropic Magazine Issue 30.