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23 July, 2021

Artist’s love letter to Kokoberrin homelands

The Cape York, Kokoberrin homelands of artist Lisa Michl Ko-manggén OAM have provided a rich source of inspiration and storytelling conveyed on canvas in an ambitious body of new work for next month’s Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF).

Lisa Michl Ko-manggén OAM at work in her Cairns studio producing eight spectacular works celebrating family and Kokoberrin ancestry ahead of this year’s Cairns Indigenous Art Fair that will be held next month. These and all photographs by Colyn Huber, Lovegreen

In the past year Lisa has dedicated many studio hours to complete eight, acrylic on canvas master works that will be featured as part of the CIAF 2021 ‘Sacred’ themed Art Fair.

Ms Michl Ko-Manggén is extremely proud of her collection, entitled Early Days; Nowadays, that she says is a culmination of 22 years of painting and life as an artist.

“My artworks are inspired by my Kokoberrin ancestry, our lifestyle and culture. From a very young age, these stories were handed down to me, while spending time in country with my senior elders. For me, art is creative expression, and it gives me the opportunity to share and document our kokoberrin clan groups stories for future generations,” Ms Michl Ko-manggén said.

The following are two of Lisa’s eight artworks that will be on show at CIAF 2021.  Each tells its own story as follows:

Sugarbag Beehive by Lisa Michl Ko-manggén OAM is an acrylic on canvas painting about sugarbag honey.  Like lollies for kids, it is bright and sweet and a real treat if lucky enough to find it while out bush.  In traditional times Kokoberrin families had few sugars or sweets available to them.  The main ones available were from berries, honey and wild toffee.  Although there are hundreds of species of Australian native bees, the stingless bees are the only ones that make and store quantities of honey in native beehives – also from which they collected wax.  The dots in this painting represent cells in the wax that are filled with honey.  The wax is squashed down and moulded like resin to form body adornments and artefacts.

‘Moving Rock’ acrylic on canvas by Lisa Michl Ko-manggén OAM tells the story an old man, a healer, who travelled the artist’s homelands during his lifetime. He was called upon to help Kokoberrin families. As he travelled, magic rocks would follow him, leaving a winding track on the ground charting his journey. People were always trying to take those magic rocks away from that medicine man. When that old fella passed away the rocks were buried beside him, but someone took them, and they are still looking for them today.

 The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair will be available to view at Cairns Convention Centre from Thursday 19 August until Sunday 22 August 2021. For further information, visit

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