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Parrtjima – A Festival in Light 2017 program revealed

Parrtjima – A Festival in Light 2017 program revealed

Central Australian Aboriginal art to illuminate the Red Centre: 22 September – 1 October

The second annual Parrtjima – A Festival in Light will illuminate Alice Springs with extraordinary contemporary art by some of Central Australia’s most celebrated Aboriginal artists over 10 nights from Friday, 22 September to Sunday, 1 October 2017, as revealed in the new creative program announced today.

The free public event will transform Alice Springs Desert Park into a mesmerising outdoor gallery of light and sound with a breathtaking illumination of a 300-million-year-old natural canvas, the majestic MacDonnell Ranges, and a series of new installations involving Aboriginal artists from the central desert region.

The festival program, created by Parrtjima curator and renowned First Nations creative director Rhoda Roberts OA, showcases the oldest continuous culture on earth and puts the magnificent Aboriginal art and culture of Central Australia on centre stage.

“We are proud to present the creative program for Parrtjima 2017 and look forward to bringing senior Aboriginal artists together in Alice Springs – home of the Arrernte of Mparntwe – to share their vibrant artwork and stories with thousands of visitors at this truly unique event.

“It has been a privilege to work with each artist to bring new light to their work using the newest technology, and it is our shared hope that the festival will inspire all visitors to learn more about the rich culture of the central desert artists who continue to paint country and keep our knowledge alive for future generations.”

Roberts worked closely with AGB Events and Aboriginal artists and art centres from across the desert region to develop the festival program, with endorsement from the Parrtjima Festival Reference Group and ongoing consultation with a wider network of respected Arrernte persons.

The creative program features the following elements and installations:

The Heartbeat of Elements of Country
Alhe Itethe (Central and Eastern Arrernte) / Arna Itatha (Western Arrarnta)

The majestic MacDonnell Ranges will be illuminated with a stunning light treatment celebrating the heartbeat of country, pulsating through expression of the elements wind, fire and water. Up to two kilometres of the 300-million-year-old natural canvas will be bathed with colour during a six-minute theatrical light display timed to music, playing on a 20-minute cycle. The spectacle respects the life of the land and its elements, reflecting their drama and inherent beauty.

The kaleidoscopic display of colour, texture and movement is the result of consultation with a network of respected Arrernte people, some of whom gave this display on the range the Arrernte name and spellings: Alhe Itethe (Central and Eastern Arrernte) and Arna Itatha (Western Arrernte), saying it means: “The sands and lands are alive. It’s all alive and we are all still here.”

Interactive Space – Wave Space 

Between the cycles of the Alhe Itethe/Arna Itatha display, visitors can step into a booth and experience lighting the range using a world-first interactive control system that follows arm and hand movements to change the lighting colours and patterns, discovering how their gestures affect the motion of the lights in real time.

Expression Space – Bindi Mwerre Anthurre Artists

Expression Space is a gallery of giant lampshades suspended beneath the stars, giving a panoramic perspective of the vibrant contemporary artworks created by Bindi Mwerre Anthurre Artists (Lifestyle Solutions). The luminous artworks portray the essence, beauty and humour of Central Australia and each artwork is a radiant reflection of the life and surrounds of the region as seen, known and loved by the group of artists involved in the installation.

Bindi Mwerre Anthurre Artists is an art centre in Alice Springs supporting Aboriginal adults with disabilities to express story and paint country. Artists include Adrian Jangala Robertson, Billy Tjampijinpa Kenda, Charles Jangala, Ingkamala, Jane Mervin, Kukula McDonald and Lance James. The lampshade frames are made by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled business, Centre of Appropriate Technologies, Desert Knowledge Precinct, Alice Springs.

Honouring Space – Iltja Ntjarra/Many Hands Art Centre

Honouring Space is presented in collaboration with Iltja Ntjarra/Many Hands Art Centre in Alice Springs, which supports Hermannsburg School-style watercolour artists who paint in the tradition of their grandfather and relative, Albert ‘Elea’ Namatjira. To honour the community, Parrtjima will represent landscape paintings by artists Gloria Pannka and Mervyn Rubuntja in collaboration with Reinhold Inkamala, Vanessa Inkamala and Kathy Inkamala in windows suspended in the desert, as if viewing the landscape.

Pannka’s painting will be represented in the style of large-scale windows, as if looking out onto a landscape rendered in watercolour. The remainder of the installation will evolve over the 10 nights as the artists return to Desert Park each day to paint a scene especially for Parrtjima. The artworks are displayed between two arches made by Aboriginal-owned social enterprise Tangentyere Constructions, which is based in Alice Springs.


The much-loved Grounded installation returns in 2017, showcasing a fresh crop of artworks by Ikuntji Artists Eunice Napanangka Jack and Gordon Butcher, and Arrernte Artists Patricia Ansell Dodds, Carol Turner and Greg McAdam, and artists from Barkly Regional Arts. Using a powerful digital projection onto the desert sands, the sequence of works creates a giant, seamless canvas on country, accompanied by an atmospheric soundscape and recordings of stories told by the artists. Visitors can enter the projection space for an immersive experience and become part of the art. Respected Arrernte people gave permission to display artwork by artists and arts centres from other areas on Arrernte country.

The audio and specialised projection equipment for Grounded is provided by the Aboriginal-owned Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), as part of a three-year agreement to allow for a fully integrated audio-visual experience at Parrtjima. The partnership will allow local suppliers to take ownership of the spectacular installation; acquiring world class equipment and expertise and will see the implementation of a training program to develop a long-term crew of Aboriginal employees for events.

Visitors to the free family-friendly event can explore the installations at their leisure and relax at the Festival Hub in the beautiful surrounds of Alice Springs Desert Park while sampling local food and drink. An expanded program of events, including live music and artist talks will soon be announced.

Andrew Hopper, General Manager, Northern Territory Major Events Company said: “Parrtjima is an uplifting family-friendly event, connecting visitors with original, contemporary and traditional Aboriginal art, while providing meaningful artistic opportunities to Central Australian artists and paving the way for local growth in capacity, jobs and training.”

The festival is open to the public at Alice Springs Desert Park from 6:30pm to 10:30pm and visitors are asked to register their attendance for one of four sessions held each night. A free park ‘n ride shuttle bus is available to and from the festival at Alice Springs Desert Park, stopping at several locations around Alice Springs.

Parrtjima (pronounced Par-CHee-ma) comes from the Arrernte group of languages, which has many dialects and ways of spelling words. In Central and Eastern Arrernte, ‘apateme’ means ‘to have trouble understanding something’ and ‘pwarrtyeme’ means ‘to shine’. The event name suggests shedding both light and understanding on a subject.

The first Aboriginal light festival of its kind in the world, Parrtjima is proudly supported by the Northern Territory Government and event partners Northern Territory Major Events Company, AGB Events, Alice Springs Desert Park, Alice Springs Town Council, Alice in the Territory and Diggamen Civil Contracting.

Join the conversation with #ParrtjimaAustralia. For more information and to register to attend, please visit 


Event                Parrtjima – A Festival in Light

Date                 22 September – 1 October 2017

Time                6:30pm – 10:30pm

Location           Alice Springs Desert Park, Larapinta Drive, Alice Springs, NT

Entry                Free



Media contact:
Sarah Shields, +61 408 283 091 |  
Rachael Ryan, +61 406 484 929 | 

About Northern Territory Major Events Company
Northern Territory Major Events Company (NTMEC) is a dynamic organisation that delivers and supports significant events across the Territory. Owned by the Northern Territory Government, NTMEC was established in 1999 and has the responsibility of developing, delivering and promoting world class events in the Northern Territory.