Parrtjima lights up Alice Springs

As Parrtjima—the Northern Territory’s annual festival of lights—enters its ninth year, the focus is on interconnectedness. “From an Indigenous perspective, everything for us is interconnected,” says festival curator Rhoda Roberts AO. “The connection to Country, seasonal behaviours, the landscape, the waterways. The stories connect everything.”

Broadly looking at Northern Territory artists, but with a focus on the Central Western Desert, the festival aims to highlight emerging Arrernte artists while paying tribute to the rich history of art and storytelling in the community. “The stories have stayed the same, it’s just the medium is different,” says Roberts. “We’re taking those stories that are steeped in ancient footprints, but we’re moving it to a more contemporary medium through lights and technology. It shows me how incredibly adaptive our culture is, and how relevant it is.”

MacDonnell Ranges Light Show.

The festival consists of two main components, along with a number of programmed events. The first is the MacDonnell Ranges Light Show, an immense installation that illuminates two kilometres of the ranges. The second is Grounded, an immersive installation in the Mparntwe (Alice Springs) Desert Park.

As the first festival since the Voice to Parliament referendum, Parrtjima feels different this year. “For the local mob, we really want Australians not to be fearful, I don’t understand what the fear is,” says Roberts. “We’re trying to unpack why there is so much fear and we’re hoping that humour, a bit of fun, the actual joy of seeing these lights and art come alive, will be something that makes people go, ‘Hey, we’re very similar as human beings. We all want to give our children, and the next generation, a wonderful place in this country.’”

Parrtjima – A Festival in Light
Alice Springs Desert Park
12 April—21 April

This article was originally published in the March/April 2024 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Sally Gearon