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Alice Springs' Luminous Parrtjima Festival Has Revealed Its Full 2021 Program

The ten-day Indigenous arts, culture and storytelling festival is back with a lineup of large-scale light installations, live tunes, performances and more.
By Sarah Ward
March 02, 2021
By Sarah Ward
March 02, 2021

It might just be Australia's brightest festival, and it's returning to light up Alice Springs once again. That'd be Parrtjima - A Festival In Light, which will deliver its sixth annual program between Friday, April 9–Sunday, April 18 — returning to the autumn time slot it established in 2019.

After a chaotic 2020, which saw the event postponed to September due to lockdowns and restrictions — and offer a virtual tour, too — the fest has big plans for 2021. First revealing last month that it'd be back this April, the event has now unveiled its full lineup. Dazzling light installations feature heavily across the Alice Springs CBD's Alice Springs Todd Mall, as well as at tourism and conservation facility Alice Springs Desert Park Precinct just out of town, anchoring the festival's free ten-day public celebration of Indigenous arts, culture, music and storytelling.

This time around, the event is corralling its program around the theme 'future kultcha', with a particular focus on "intergenerational wisdom told through light, interactive workshops, art, music, films, performance and the spoken word". Taking care of the light side of things are 'Landing Kultcha', which'll use light tubes of different lengths, span 20 metres in length and provide quite the entranceway — plus 'Grounded Kultcha', which will project an animated sequence of curated artworks onto the sands of Alice Springs Desert Park.

Artist's impression of 'Merging Kutcha'

There's also 'Merging Kultcha', which features a train of five illuminated camels; 'Tailoring Kultcha', with light and textiles used to transform Todd Mall; and 'Harvesting Kultcha', an interactive game for all ages that's inspired by the constant movement in a honey-ant nest. Or, thanks to 'Revolving Kutcha', there'll be shields, coolamons and skateboards, including one large central piece that'll range between six to eight metres high, plus eight other two-metre-tall sculptures.

As it always does, the festival's main attraction will glow far and wide. Once again, a huge artwork will transform a 2.5-kilometre stretch of the majestic, 300-million-year-old MacDonnell Ranges, showering it with light each night of the festival. The installation is being called 'Spirit Kultcha' this year, and it'll include a soundscape by Electric Fields.

Artist's impression of 'Landing Kutcha'

More than 55 artists are involved with the full Parrtjima program, which spans live music from Electric Fields and Casey Donovan, as well as Miiesha, MusicNT's Divas, Jimblah, Bow and Arrow, Dobby, OKA, Ziggy Ramo and Shellie Morris. If you're keen to listen to a few talks as well, the speaker list includes writer Bruce Pascoe, artists Jungala Kriss and Raymond Walters Japanangka, and Professor Marcia Langton AM — and films such as 50s classic Jedda and musical comedy Bran Nue Dae are on the movie lineup.

Attendees can also dine under the stars at the Alice Springs Desert Park Precinct, thanks to a dinner that's a first for the fest.

Of course, Parrtjima is just one of Northern Territory's two glowing attractions in 2021, with Australia's Red Centre lighting up in multiple ways. The festival is a nice supplement to Bruce Munro's Field of Light installation, which — after multiple extensions — is now on display indefinitely.

If you're keen to start making Parrtjima plans, remember to check out the Northern Territory's COVID-19 border restrictions first.

Parrtjima – A Festival in Light runs from April 9–18, 2021 around Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. For more information, visit the festival website.

Top images: Rachel Wallace, Greg McAdam, Lachlan Dodds Watson.

Published on March 02, 2021 by Sarah Ward


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