Parrtjima: Expanded creative program announced

A new installation and expanded program of events has been announced for Parrtjima – A Festival in Light, the extraordinary 10-night celebration of Central Australian art and culture illuminating Alice Springs from Friday, 22 September to Sunday, 1 October 2017.

The festival hub (Apurte-irretyeke* [Getting Together]) will come to life with a curated program of live talks, events and music by local musicians each weekend, bringing the stories, sounds and rhythms of Central Australia – home of the Arrernte of Mparntwe – to the free public event.

In addition to the breathtaking installations and illumination of the majestic MacDonnell Ranges already announced, is a new installation featuring artwork by Artists of Ampilatwatja that will transform Alice Springs Desert Park into a mesmerising outdoor gallery of light and sound.

Using state-of-the-art LED luminaires, Medicine Space projects a series of artworks by Ampilatwatja artists Michelle Pula Holmes, Julieanne Ngwarraye Morton and Kathleen Nanima Rambler onto hanging semi-transparent fabric, suspended in the desert and moving freely in the breeze, as images magically appear and disappear.

The Artists of Ampilatwatja are famous for their unique paintings of desert landscapes, bushfoods, bush medicine, family gathering spaces and works on lore, and their distinct painting style features fine dots and bright, child-like figurative depictions.

Parrtjima curator and renowned First Nations creative director Rhoda Roberts OA, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome more senior Aboriginal artists to the Parrtjima 2017 festival program to share their unique artmaking and culture with the world.

“The addition of Medicine Space and the expanded festival knowledge program we have curated will truly deepen the visitor experience and provide another platform for the artists and respected Arrernte Elders to holistically share their art, knowledge and culture.”

Roberts worked closely with 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.

Significant Traditional Owner (Apmereke-artweye of Mparntwe), Parrtjima Festival Reference Group advisor and festival participant, Benedict Kngwarraye Stevens said: “The most important thing for us is to keep passing on our culture to the coming generations. Parrtjima helps us show the world that this is Arrernte country and how beautiful it is.

“Parrtjima shows people that the country is alive, so that visitors and all the non-Arrernte people who live here can have deeper respect for it, and start to see how much it means to us. We want people to understand that it has always been a part of us. Parrtjima helps our young people stand tall in front of the world to say, ‘This is our country, this is our art, and this is our culture – and it is good’.”

An original audio soundscape featuring voice recordings of senior Arrernte people, including Benedict Kngwarraye Stevens, Peter Peltharre Wallace and Warren H. Mpetjana Williams, will accompany the stunning illumination of the MacDonnell Ranges entitled, The Heartbeat of Elements of Country (Apmere Ahelhe Itethe [All Country is Alive]).

The audio soundtrack was recorded by Aboriginal-owned Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), as part of a three-year agreement to deliver a fully integrated audio-visual experience at Parrtjima.

The partnership will allow local suppliers to take ownership of the spectacular installation of Grounded (Apmere Melangke [There’s No Place Like Home]); 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 the event.

Visitors are asked to register their attendance for sessions held each night between 5:00pm and 10:30pm Friday to Sunday, and one of four sessions held between 6:30pm and 10:30pm Monday to Thursday during the festival. 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, Thrifty Rent-a-Car, Alice in the Territory and Diggamen Civil Contracting.

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