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What's new at parrtjima – a festival in light 2017

Indigenous art, culture and stories are in the spotlight at this year’s Parrtjima – A Festival in Light in Alice Springs.

By Ute Junker
Published: 25 September, 2017

Last year’s inaugural Parrtjima – A Festival in Light showed Alice Springs in a very different light. The second edition of the festival, taking place from September 22 to October 1, again uses light installations to turn the desert landscape into a colourful canvas. Live painting sessions and artist talks round out a fascinating program.


Parrtjima – A Festival in Light, Alice Springs, Northern Territory

See some of Australia’s most talented artists in a whole new light at the Parrtjima – A Festival in Light in Alice Springs. Artists from 40 Aboriginal arts centres are sharing their works as part of this unique festival in which art works are transformed into illuminated installations. Members of the Arrernte, Luritja, Anmatyerre, Warlpiri and Pitjantjatjara nations will see their works installed in a shimmering outdoor gallery that sends colour shooting through the desert night.

Among the most striking works will be “Medicine Space”. Designed by a number of Ampilatwatja artists, known for their distinctive use of fine dots and bright colours, the images will be projected onto swathes of semi-transparent fabric that sway gently in the breeze. The desert itself becomes a canvas in the installation called “Grounded”, which features works by a number of Ikuntji and Arrernte artists projected onto the desert sands, accompanied by an atmospheric soundscape.


Parrtjima – A Festival in Light, Alice Springs, Northern Territory

As the festival unfolds, visitors will also enjoy a front-row seat to the creative process as artists from the Iltja Ntjarra/Many Hands Art Centre create a large-scale painting over the 10 days. Four artists will work on the piece, called “Honouring Space”, which is designed to resemble enormous windows opening onto the desert landscape. The watercolour painting is being created in the style of tribal elder Albert “Elea” Namatjira, whose vivid depictions of his country made him Australia’s first renowned Aboriginal artist.

Festivalgoers can also get creative themselves with “Wave Space”, which puts them in charge of elaborate landscape illuminations. Up to 80 moving lights will pour swathes of colour across the MacDonnell Ranges. Wave Space lets you control what lights up when. Sweeping your hands across your body will set the lights in motion; additional gestures will let you change colours and patterns, painting the landscape in vivid shades. 


Parrtjima – A Festival in Light, Alice Springs, Northern Territory

There are plenty of other activities to check out. Start your evenings at the Festival Hub, a relaxed venue that will host a lively range of talks and events. Come early to hear some of the area’s most acclaimed artists talking about their works. Highlights will include acoustic performances by Warren H Williams, and “Alice Through My Eyes”, in which two locals – artist Patricia Ansell Dodds and actor Trish Morton-Thomas – talk about life in the desert township. The lively CAAMA Music Hour gives local bands the opportunity to strut their stuff.

Join a stargazing session to discover the sky stories the Arrernte people use to explain the constellations that glitter so brightly in the desert sky. From the Southern Cross to the giant emu that stalks the heavens, there are all sorts of arresting patterns to discover.

On the final day of the festival, Arrernte elders will share their experiences of what it means to be an Aboriginal elder and tell of the responsibility they have to pass on that knowledge in “Tradition Bearers”.

You can also watch an incredible Aboriginal light show every day in Sydney.