The Heart in Art

First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corporation developed the Blak Markets model after identifying a series of barriers in the industry and community. These included a lack of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples/organisations in decision making roles within the marketplace which can translate to a decrease in economic benefits going directly to Artists or other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island organisations working in community to improve outcomes. They built a model that supported small business with location, insurance and marketing to enable them to enter the marketplace at a higher place on the supply chain and four years later the markets continues to innovate because of its ability to respond to needs of the community and demands of the market ie customers wanting an ‘authentic’ indigenous experience.

In 2017 we trialled the Heart in Art program at the Blak Markets which sponsored 21 remote aboriginal artists and 11 remote art centres to come to Sydney as we wanted to see if remote Aboriginal art centres would also benefit from the Blak Markets model in benefitting from selling directly in the marketplace alongside our local stallholders.

First-Hand Solutions also organises 3 days of professional development for remote artists while they are in Sydney as part of the Heart in Art program as well as connecting artists with local Aboriginal community groups. This forms part of the cultural exchange between urban and Aboriginal communities as First-Hand Solutions takes urban youth and artists to remote communities to learn from the people still connected to the land and where culture is still practiced  -this knowledge and skills increase pride and resilience in urban youth as they realise they are part of a culture going back 40,000 years.

We had extensive feedback from these remote art centres after this first event not only about the benefits of being present from a professional development perspective, but also the stallholders (local stallholders and art centres) making a combined $250,000 profit in one day and recommended holding a two day annual indigenous art fair in Sydney in line with other state-based indigenous art fairs which is why we are running this  over two days at the Overseas Passenger Terminal this year.

We pride ourselves at our Art Fair that there are so many artists present as its important that these artists from remote communities also get the chance to learn from the marketplace but this presence also gives visitors to the market the chance to talk to the maker and hear their stories -a rare opportunity in Sydney. This is important in this era of fake art where up to 80% of Aboriginal artefacts sold in the tourist shops are marketed as Aboriginal but are made overseas.


Held across two days, the Blak Markets NAIDOC Art Festival offered remote Aboriginal art centres the opportunity to promote and sell their work alongside local stallholders as part of the vibrant Blak Market program which included bush tucker cooking demonstrations, live music, communal weaving and painting workshops and Aboriginal dance performances.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from 22 remote art centres in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia bought their works to the Art Fair and hosted workshops demonstrating their unique arts and cultural practices.

These workshops included a watercolour workshop with Iltja Ntjarra Art Centre and an ochre painting workshop with Warnum Art Centre as well as a communal weaving workshop with weavers from communities across Australia including the fibre weavers of Gapuwiyak Culture and Arts and the Tjanpi and Yarrentere Arltere weavers.

In the spirit of the 2018 National NAIDOC Theme “Because of her, we can!”, the two day event program included an all-NSW female line-up of live music by the Stiff Ginns, Triple J Unearthed High Indigenous Initiative winner in 2017 Rebbeca Hatch, Mi-Kaisha and Maddison Lyn, with dance performances by Wagana Aboriginal Dancers and Redfern Dance as well as bush-food cooking demonstrations from Jody Orcher of Shared Knowledge and the mother of bushfoods Auntie Beryl Van-Oploo.

Blak Markets also featured an array of Bush Food stalls at theFestival including: Shared KnowledgeMeat Brothers and Mirritya Mundya 

The National Indigenous NAIDOC Art Fair is presented by the Blak Markets, a social enterprise arm of First Hand Solutions, and is supported by the Australia Council and the NSW Government via its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, in proud partnership with the Port Authority of NSW.

The artists came to Sydney as part of First Hand Solutions’ Heart in Art program, which provides economic and professional development opportunities to Aboriginal artists working in remote communities around Australia. First Hand Solutions is an Aboriginal social enterprise dedicated to providing hands-on solutions to issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Remote art centres attending the two day event included:

  • APY Art Centre Collective (Amata, APY Lands, SA)
  • Artists of Ampilatwatja (Ampilatwatja, NT)
  • Bábbarra Women’s Centre (Maningrida NT)
  • Bula’Bula Art (Ramingining, NT)
  • Ernabella Arts (Pukatja Community, APY Lands, SA)
  • Gapuwiyak Culture and Arts (Gapuwiyak, NT)
  • Ikuntji Artists (Haasts Bluff, NT)
  • Iltja Ntjarra Art Centre (Alice Springs, NT)
  • Iwantja Arts (Indulkana Community, APY Lands, SA)
  • Kaltjiti Arts (Fregon Community, APY Lands, SA)
  • Martumili Artists (Newman, WA)
  • Mimili Maku Arts (Mimili Community, NT)
  • Munupi Arts (Tiwi Islands, NT)
  • Tangentyere Artists (Alice Springs, NT)
  • Tjala Arts (Amata Community, APY Lands, SA)
  • Tjarlirli Art & Kaltukatjara Art (Tjarlirli Community, NT)
  • Tjungu Palya Arts (Nyapari Community, SA)
  • Warakurna Arts (Warakurna Community, NT)
  • Warlukurlangu Artists (Yuendumu, NT)
  • Warmun Art Centre (Warmun, WA)
  • Warnayaka Art Centre (Lajamanu, NT)
  • Yarrenytyere Arltere (Alice Springs, NT).

First Hand Solutions, CEO, Peter Cooley said: “This was an exciting opportunity for Sydneysiders to browse and buy high-quality Aboriginal art directly from a range of artists from some of Australia’s most remote communities. 



Facebook Event:




Stiff Ginns

Rebbeca Hatch


Maddison Lyn



Wagana Aboriginal Dancers

Redfern Dance Company

Bush food Cooking Demonstration:

Jody Orcher from Shared Knowledge

Aunty Beryl Van Oploo


Warnum Art Centre will provide a ochre painting workshop

Warnum Art Centre will provide a free ochre painting workshop


Itja Ntjarra/Many Hands Art Centre will off a watercolour painting workshop

ltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre will offer a free watercolour painting workshop

Communal Weaving Workshop



Food Stall Holders:


Shared Knowledge