Festival lights up a 300 million-year-old canvas

A unique festival in Alice Springs combines modern technology and ancient landscapes.
Festival lights up a 300 million-year-old canvas

Image by James Horan for AGB Events.

For the second year, Parrtjima – A Festival in Light will create an outdoor gallery experience in Alice Springs, lighting up the MacDonnell Ranges with magnificent, large-scale projections in a must-see celebration of country, culture and community.


In the Arrernte language, Parrtjima (pronounced Par-CHee-ma) means ‘lighting up’ and conveys two meanings: physically illuminating an object with light and ‘lighting up’ as in to shed light and understanding on a subject. The Arrernte language is a dialect cluster spoken in and around Alice Springs (‘Mparntwe’, in Arrernte).

The free 10-day event follows the outstanding success of the inaugural festival in 2016, which was attended by almost 16,000 people. Bringing back the festival for a second year is a boon to the local economy and artistic community.

Image by James Horan for AGB Events.

Andrew Hopper, General Manager of Northern Territory Major Events Company, said the inaugural Parrtjima event captivated visitors with its breathtaking light displays, and the second event will be even more special.

‘This is an exciting announcement for Central Australia; the festival is a wonderful boost for the tourism industry, the local economy and local artists,’ Hopper said.

The second Parrtjima event introduces the festival’s first Aboriginal curator, Rhoda Roberts OA, and features a new and expanded program celebrating the outstanding Aboriginal art of Central Australia, while providing meaningful artistic opportunities to local artists.

Roberts has a high profile nationally and internationally as an Indigenous creative director, writer and producer. She is a member of the Bundjalung nation, Widjabul clan of Northern New South Wales and South East Queensland.

Image by James Horan for AGB Events.

‘I am working closely with the Parrtjima Festival Reference Group, AGB Events, local Aboriginal artists and art centres from across the desert region to develop the narrative for the event that celebrates the magnificent Aboriginal art of Central Australia,’ said Roberts.

The site-specific work uses projections and advanced lighting technology to illuminate the

MacDonnell Ranges and create a captivating outdoor gallery experience at Alice Springs Desert Park.

‘Original, contemporary and traditional art by local Indigenous artists and art centres will be celebrated through interactive installations for the whole family to enjoy. As Central Desert artists are renowned for their vibrant artwork, Parrtjima will illuminate the landscape with a spectrum of colour,’ said Roberts.

Image by James Horan for AGB Events.

‘The event will connect thousands of visitors to Alice Springs – home of the Arrernte of Mparntwe and surrounding estates Antulye (Undoolya) and Irlpme (Bond Springs) – by showcasing one of the oldest continuous cultures on earth through the newest technology on a 300 million year old natural canvas,’ Roberts continued.

‘As an ever-adapting culture, the works featured in Parrtjima continue the tradition of using varying mediums and new ways of telling stories, continuing an ancient practice of listening and painting up country.’

Parrtjima will run from 22 September until 1 October 2017 in Alice Springs. For more information and to register to attend, please visit the Parrtjima website.

Emma Clark Gratton

Thursday 29 June, 2017

About the author

Emma Clark Gratton is an ArtsHub staff writer.