Tributes flow after death of Cairns Indigenous artist Arone Meeks


Cairns-based artist Arone Meeks
Photo: Supplied

Cairns’ LGBTIQ and arts communities have mourned the death of Indigenous artist Arone Meeks, who passed away last week.

The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair director died peacefully in hospital last Wednesday (May 5) after a short battle with cancer. Meeks was 64.

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The Kuku Imidiji man grew up in the Cape York town of Laura. After studying in Sydney, he returned to Cape York before settling in Cairns.

The Far North Queensland painter, sculptor and printmaker exhibited his art in numerous galleries across the country and around the world.

In a tribute, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) remembered Meeks as “one of Australia’s most important and prolific contemporary Indigenous artists.”

“His impressive body of work stands as courageous studies into contemporary issues of sexuality, identity, land rights, and the re-telling of cultural stories and lore,” they said.

“Arone continuously experimented with new and additional mediums; often writ-large on sweeping prints, paintings and public art installations.

“He was also a teacher, a staunch advocate for the arts, and a generous supporter of Queensland Indigenous artists and communities.”

Community loses ‘national treasure’ Arone Meeks

CIAF director Gillian Mailman told The Cairns Post she is grieving the loss of “talented, passionate, and beautiful” Meeks.

“He gave so much of himself and I am going to miss him so much,” she said.

“His life should celebrated with respect and dignity because he deserves so much.

“We have lost a national treasure today.”

Mailman said she and CIAF’s board of directors would continue the art fair in Meeks’ memory.

“He has started something and we have got to keep it going. His passion, his talent… he was a beautiful man,” she said.

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Arone Meeks’ partner Geoff Dixon has also thanked everyone who had sent messages of support.

A leading advocate for First Nations people living with HIV

As well as an accomplished artist, Arone Meeks was also a leading advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Islanders living with HIV.

Advocacy groups Anwernekenhe National HIV Alliance and Positive Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Network (PATSIN) also paid tribute.

“He provided a unique contribution to the HIV sector and pioneered a new way of storytelling,” they said.

“Through art, he shared his story and that of his community by interconnecting aboriginal culture, HIV and health promotion.

“His art was ground-breaking, giving a voice to those previously voiceless.

“Arone Meeks’ lasting legacy is a collection of artwork which will continue to have a profound impact on the way we understand the history of the HIV response in Australia.”

The two groups extended their heartfelt condolences to Arone’s family, friends, and community.

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