Parrtjima is a festival in light showcasing the unique beauty of the desert country.
Parrtjima is the only authentic Aboriginal festival of it’s kind which showcases some of the oldest cultures on earth, through new technology.
Parrtjima’s festival in light, brings the town of Alice Springs to life.
Steeped in traditional Aboriginal Culture, the Parrtjima Festival in light gives you ten magical nights of light, art, events and music by local and national musicians.
I first visited the festival of light in 2018 and was inspired by the spectacular variety of lighting displays. The mountains of the desert were brought to life by music, light and culture. It was a totally new way to enjoy the beauty of the desert.
Parrtjima 2019 was just as magical.
This year we visited the the Todd Mall displays to give us an added dimension of the festival. What is magical for me about this event is opportunity for visitor interaction with the light installations. Children were dancing on the patterns, adults were strolling through the changing art carpet and others were watching from the grandstands.
Parrtjima 2019 is the
fourth annual Light Festival held in the Red Centre.
Plan your visit to Alice Springs in 2020 to see the next Parrtjima Festival.
Parrtjima is a FREE 10 night festival.
It is a rich cultural experience which offers some of the most incredible sightseeing during your time in this beautiful part of Australia.
Experience interactive workshops, talks, film, music and dance across two event precincts – Alice Springs Desert Park and the Todd Mall. Hear the stories, sounds and rhythms of Central Australia as you walk through the installations.
Evolving over the past four years, Parrtjima has become a spectacular gallery imprinted on ancient landscape that is more that just dots. The artworks feature traditional Arrernte art, and art from across the Central Desert region and other parts of the Northern Territory.
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The meaning of ‘Parrtjima’ – pronounced ‘Par-chee-ma’
The name comes from the Arrernte group of languages. ‘Parrtjima’ was chosen to suggest the shedding of both light and understanding.
Parrtjima is held on Mparntwe (also known as Alice Springs), which always was and always will be an integral part of the traditional Arrernte people.
Set against the backdrop of the MacDonnell Ranges, Parrtjima remains connected to the land of the Arrernte people and other custodians of this country. They want you to feel welcome and invite you to experience Parrtjima to gain a deeper understanding of the connection to country and Arrernte culture.
Parrtjima features two different precincts. Alice Springs Desert Park has been home to the festival since 2016, but more recently the Todd Mall in Alice Springs town centre also features artworks and light installations.
Alice Springs Desert Park – Festival Hub
Amid the spectacular West MacDonnell Ranges, the Desert Park is a tourism and conservation park and nature reserve closely connected with the Arrernte people.
The Desert Park is home to the spectacular lighting of the MacDonnell Ranges, the interactive light installations and the Festival Hub where food and drinks are available.
The 2019 Theme – Language Expressions
The theme for Parrtjima 2019 is Language Expressions, which aligns with the United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages. The Arrernte mother-tongue languages of the Central and Western desert are an essential instrument in providing age old Aboriginal education.
Each year at Parrtjima, the desert comes to life with new artworks, light shows and a range of performers, workshops and talks developed by Parrtjima’s curator Rhoda Roberts AO.
The Language of Kin
An impressive, illuminated light tunnel celebrating the Arrernte kinship system to welcome visitors to this year’s festival space. Explore the complex system of kinship as the audio soundscape plays as you pass through the tunnel.
Living Sands – Grounded
A collection of vibrant and animated artworks are imprinted on these desert sands. Emulating a giant canvas these artworks are accompanied by a soundscape for all to enjoy. Become part of the art. Enjoy.
The Language of Change
Three bush taxis, or buses feature the work of prominent Aboriginal artists Mervyn Rubuntja, Rene Kulitja and Phillip McCormack. Their artworks depict the changes of the 21st century and travelling with the seasons to follow their song-lines for important events and gatherings.
Interact with the Lights
The Language of Stockmen
A series of oversized sculptures replicating original artwork by local artists Johnny Young and David Wallace.
This display portrays the stories of early station workers and the importance of their language of the land. The harsh terrain of Central Australia meant that station hands did so much more than simply muster stock.
Lighting the MacDonnell Ranges
2018 – Spaces on Country
The Gateway Nature Space
A stunning tunnel of glowing art reflecting the sense of movement and freedom in the bush and how alive the desert is. The tunnel features a series of abstract bird shapes, inspired by Warnayaka Art’s Myra Patrick Herbert’s work Budgerigar Dreaming.
These birds are hand-painted by local community groups and schools.
Grounded is an installation which projects lights from above onto the desert sands of the outback. The sequence of works creates a giant seamless canvas on country, accompanied by an atmospheric soundscape.
The Gathering Space installation tells the stories of Central Australian artists through light, multimedia and re-purposed materials. The collaboration of several contemporary artists depict freedom of place, landscape and flora and fauna.
Step inside the circle to a gathering space activated by old television monitors, showcasing stories from the artists.
Lighting the MacDonnell Ranges
The 2018 Parrtjima theme is ‘from sunset to sunrise’. This year, the ranges will be framed in a new dimension as the backdrop to an immersive light show, creating a sense of magic with a colour and art on a spectacular gallery.
This ancient Alice Springs landscape shines in a spectacular way stretching two kilometres over the ranges.
The Forest Space
This space connects us to sky, land and water stories. Forest Space represents the cluster of trees that grow across the desert.
Wander through fifteen tall sculptures, honouring the ancient wisdom of survival in this ancient land.
This installation was created by artists studying at the Batchelor Institute of Tertiary Education and others.
Between lighting show sequences, step into this world-first interactive system. Over 500 powerful, individually controlled LED lights respond instantly to every move you make. Illuminate the landscape. Celebrate the colours of this loved and ancient desert.
The Children’s Space is an interactive playground space for the young (and young at heart) using the vibrant artwork of Kerinke Arts.
Children are encouraged to climb on the installation and explore the deeper knowledge of our nation through music and voice recordings. This space is designed for free expression – and fun!
The Todd Mall Precinct
Todd Mall has been transformed by a symbolic ‘river of light’ flowing along the ground where, each night, the river will reveal symbols of gathering, campsites, waterholes and rivers. These are important symbols of the local Arrernte people.
The John Flynn Church lawns are home to nightly talks, creative workshops, film and musical performances as part of the Parrtjima Knowledge Program.
An array of beautiful textures, and patterns and colours throw light across the street and light up the surrounding trees using a number of state of the art LED projectors.
The Dreamtime Caterpillars
In the Arrernte people’s Dreamtime story, this region was created by giant caterpillars which turned into the East and West MacDonnell Ranges. The Caterpillars are an important feature that connects the Arrernte people to country.
Experience the stories behind the art and performances, and witness an extraordinary line up of films including works by local Alice Springs song writers and film makers.
Australia’s Red Centre
Your Parrtjima experience of a lifetime takes place in the heart of Australia, often known as Australia’s Red Centre. Alice Springs is known as Mparntwe to the traditional owners, the Arrertne people.
There is so much to do in Central Australia. Explore historic sites. See the beautiful art works of local artists. Join a cultural event or activity or try one of the many iconic nature and adventure activities in the stunning desert landscape.
Read Next: The Red Centre Way
Getting there is easy
Air: Qantas, Virgin and Air North are the three major airlines that service Alice Springs regularly. Together they offer daily flight routes and connections to most capital cities.
Road: Take a road trip from Adelaide to Darwin or vice versa to combine this experience into an iconic journey through the centre of Australia.
Rail: Treat yourself to a luxurious rail journey through Central Australia on the Ghan. The Ghan is one of the world’s famous railway routes travelling twice a week between Darwin and Adelaide.
Where to stay
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Have you been to the Parrtjima Festival in Light yet? What did you enjoy most of all? We’d love you to share your thoughts with us below.