Daintree National Park and the Art of Cape York, Queensland

Going back through material collected from a trip in 2010 to the tropical north for the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, continues to provide a wealth of information on the dynamic indigenous art scene. Getting out into the environment heighted the appreciation of the art from the region, with time for day trips to the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation where the rainforest meets the reef. The national park, founded in 1981, is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Site, achieved after a long environmental campaign in the 1980s.

Despite all the road sign warnings, there were no sightings of the elusive cassowary (aka emu in a party hat). Migaloo the white whale didn’t make an appearance either, the whale cruises up and down the east coast, winters in the tropics and summers in Antarctica.

Held annually, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair includes works from across Queensland and the Torres Strait. Indigenous Australian art has a long lineage. A recent archaeological dig now puts occupation at over 65,000 years in northern Australia at the Madjedbebe camp site.1 Contemporary indigenous art emerged in the 1970s2. Today many works feature pointillism combined with aerial perspective, intense colours, particularly those from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of South Australia which dominate the current art scene3, reclaiming country through art. This year marks a ‘radical change’4 in the Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, for first time it includes a large number of paintings by the APY artists, and its about time.

In comparison with the central desert (sacred designs), Arnhem Land (bark paintings), and APY paintings, the works from Cape York feature lyrical abstraction, action painting, are gestural, atmospheric with mood and emotion, the ‘Sand beach’ people where art and culture reflect deep understanding of the environment and its seasonal moods.’5 A style dealing with what is important to the community today. Some of the artists from Cape York and works below.

From the Lockhart River area (850 kilometres north of Cairns) 5:
Samantha Hobson scenes of fire, flying over the reef, and the beach at night.
Rosella Namok rain series, psychological impact, mood, atmosphere, ‘metaphysical aspect (conceptual not visual aspects of a subject but understanding and knowledge of it)’, personal experience, understanding of place.
Fiona Omeenyo free flowing line, expressionist figurative compositions, ancestral figures and kin relationships, coastal imagery past and present, Quinkan rock art iconography.

Judy Watson from northwest Queensland. Themes of political invisibility, dislocation, cultural memory, politics of place. Pigment soaked canvasses, works intuitively through listening to oral histories, travelling into country, and research of official records.

Places and events
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
Green Island
Port Douglas
Daintree National Park
Cape Tribulation
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Kuranda

Sense of Place


Port Douglas 22/8/2010


Daintree River 22/8/2010


Cape Tribulation 22/8/2010



Sand crab art, Cape Tribulation 22/8/2010


Sand crab art, Cape Tribulation 22/8/2010


Green Island 23/8/2010


Monarch of the tropics 24/8/2010

Art References

Hobson (Samantha) Bust im up 2000 NGV

Samantha Hobson, Bust ’im up, 2000

Hobson (Samantha) Flying Over the Reef 2001_141803

Samantha Hobson, Flying Over the Reef, 2001

Hobson (Samantha) Burn grass season night time coming, 2001 NGV

Samantha Hobson, Burn grass season: night time coming, 2001

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Samantha Hobson, Burn Grass Season, 2002

Hobson (Samantha) Bush Fire 2002_142220 (2)

Samantha Hobson, Bush Fire, 2002

Namok (Rosella) Blue Water 2002_142316 (2)

Rosella Namok Blue Water, 2002

Namok (Rosella) Kaapan & Kuyan 2002_141912 (2)

Rosella Namok, Kaapan & Kuyan, 2002

Namok (Rosella) Boggy Road to Chili Beach 2002_142003 (2)

Rosella Namok, Boggy Road to Chili Beach, 2002

Namok (Rosella) Clan Groups Not Sharing Rough Times 2004 (2)

Rosella Namok, Clan Groups Not Sharing Rough Times, 2004

Namok (Rosella) Soft Morning Rain 2004_142036 (2)

Rosella Namok, Soft Morning Rain, 2004

Namok (Rosella) Today Now..We'pia Change 2004_142350 (2)

Rosella Namok, Today Now..We’pia Change, 2004

Namok (Rosella) Before Time...Proper Strong 2005_142414 (2)

Rosella Namok, Before Time…Proper Strong, 2005

Omeenyo (Fiona) Family Day 2006_141941 (2)

Fiona Omeenyo, Family Day, 2006

Omeenyo (Fiona) Many Rivers to the Sea 2006_141646 (2)

Fiona Omeenyo, Many Rivers to the Sea, 2006

Watson (Judy) museum piece 1998 AGNSW

Judy Watson, museum piece, 1998

Watson (Judy) names of the natives 2010 NGA

Judy Watson, names of the natives, 2010

Watson (Judy) bunya 2011

Judy Watson, bunya, 2011

Other references

1 Buried tools and pigments tell a new history of humans in Australia for 65,000 years, The Conversation 20 July 2017

2 How the Men’s Painting Room at Papunya transformed Australian art, John Kean, The Conversation 30 June 2017

3 Why the remote APY Lands dominate the Australian art scene, ABC RN by Georgia Moodie for ABC Books and Arts

4A delightfully playful portrait, a historic moment for landscape painting, Joanna Mendelssohn, The Conversation 29 July 2017

5 Our Way Contemporary Aboriginal Art from Lockhart River, Sally Butler 2007