Vibrant creative and technology learning hub in Cairns, Indigenous Design Labs (IDL) stands as a beacon of innovation, breaking new ground by infusing artificial intelligence (AI) into their creative process. At the heart of this technological fusion is the ‘I Am Here’ exhibition, a testament to the rich tapestry of Indigenous belonging and the dynamic threads of cultural heritage intricately woven into the life stories of elders.
This groundbreaking exhibition explores the essence of Indigenous identity through a captivating blend of traditional photography and cutting-edge AI technologies. In a world often overshadowed by artificiality, ‘I Am Here’ aims to unveil the true spirit of belonging through real-time connections with those who carry the wisdom of the past. The result is a mesmerising dance of shared experiences and timeless journeys, capturing the essence of Indigenous cultures in a way that transcends the boundaries of conventional artistic expression.
Guided by a committed team of First Nations creative mentors, Tarquin Singleton and Sheree Jacobs, the young and dynamic team at IDL has spent the past five years pushing the boundaries of what is defined a Indigenous creativity. Their collaborative efforts have not gone unnoticed, as they have had the privilege of working with some of Australia’s leading brands and companies, including MECCA, Target, The EVT Group, Cairns Regional Council, and The Starlight Foundation, among many others.
The integration of AI into traditional artistic forms represents more than just a technological leap; it signifies a bridge between the wisdom of the past and the creativity of the future. The ‘I Am Here’ exhibition serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of spending time with our old people and fostering a sense of identity, particularly for the younger generation.
The mentorship provided by First Nations leaders adds a layer of depth to the creative process, ensuring that the intersection of tradition and innovation is guided by a profound understanding of Indigenous values. The success of IDL in collaborating with major brands underscores the growing recognition of the importance of Indigenous perspectives, creativity and innovation in diverse sectors.
As IDL continues to evolve, it stands as a shining example of the adaptability and resilience of Indigenous cultures in the face of technological advancements. The work being done locally and nationally by IDL is not only contributing to the creative landscape but also playing a pivotal role in preserving and promoting Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in new ways.
In a world where technology often threatens to obscure our connection to heritage, Indigenous Design Labs is proving that, when harnessed thoughtfully, artificial intelligence can be a powerful tool for amplifying, rather than erasing, the voices of Indigenous communities. The ‘I Am Here’ exhibition is a testament to the enduring strength of Indigenous cultures, demonstrating that, with the right blend of tradition and innovation, the past can coexist harmoniously with the future.
Some of the Elders from the ‘I Am Here’ Exhibition L to R: Barbara Simpson, Marie David and Sari Salome Thaiday.
“IDL is still a work in progress, but we are doing some amazing work locally and nationally. This exhibition connects these young people back to our elders and importantly shows them and others who view it that we must never lose connection to them, they are at the heart of our belonging.”
Young creative crew from Indigenous Design Labs Left to right; Reseira Brown, Chenae Dempsey, Leonardo Robinson, Samara Francis, Siuai Donigi-Bedford, Lalawa Donigi-Bedford, Sina Mahina, Norah Schlesak. (absent Kalani Mentha)
Funded for three years by the John T Reid Foundation foundation, which expired in 2022, IndigeDesignLabs has transitioned into a sustainable creative impact hub. Their collaboration with ingeous studios, combined with the opportunities they have embraced, has paved the way for their continued success. The support provided by Northsite Contemporary Arts, which offers a creative space for their endeavors and foundational support, has also been instrumental in their growth.