'Parrtjima — A Festival in Light' Is Back in the Red Centre for 2024 — and This Is What It Looks Like

If you haven't already put this dazzling First Nations festival in the Northern Territory on your must-attend list, this is what you're missing out on.
Sarah Ward
Published on April 15, 2024

It's that time again for 2024: time for Australia's Red Centre to glow with other hues, including across ranges dating back 300 million years, thanks to giant puppets and on the ochre earth. Every April, Parrtjima — A Festival in Light returns to the Northern Territory with art, music, talks and an all-round celebration of First Nations culture. This year's event is on now, kicking off on Friday, April 12 and running till Sunday, April 21 — and if you're not there or on your way, this is what you're missing out on.

When Arelhe Urrperle strolls along, people take notice. A six-metre-tall puppet that weighs 600 kilograms wandering around draws attention. Seeing it mosey through Alice Springs Desert Park, sharing Arrernte stories and language, is a main attraction at 2024's Parrtjima — A Festival in Light, in fact — and just one of the highlights of this Indigenous arts festival.

Erth, which has also brought dinosaurs and sharks to life around the country in the past — and held prehistoric picnics featuring puppets — is behind Arelhe Urrperle. In New South Wales, Marri Dyin, which also reaches six metres in height, has taken a stroll at Vivid Sydney 2018 and 2019, plus at the Nights on Crown Festival in Wollongong in 2019. Arelhe Urrperle is specific to the Red Centre, however, with Erth's puppeteers training local Indigenous performers to operate the roving puppet for Parrtjima's 2024 run.

Representing Arelhe matriarchs, Arelhe Urrperle is one of this year's signature installations — and a new addition to Parrtjima for 2024. Fancy feasting your eyes on illuminated cars that form a collage of work celebrating Eastern, Western and Central language groups? Walking through an immersive passageway that pays tribute to late Arrernte leader Dr MK Turner? Thanks to fellow installations Arrernte and Honouring, they're also on the festival's program right now.

One of the Northern Territory's annual highlights — and one of its dazzling sights, alongside natural features Uluru, the Tjoritja gorges and Kings Canyon, plus nightly light show Wintjiri Wiru, as well as Bruce Munro's Field of Light and Light Towers — this  arts, culture and storytelling event takes place against the MacDonnell Ranges.

2024 marks the ninth Parrtjima, with its lineup focusing on the importance of interconnectedness across First Nations culture for this year. That's partly happening through two things that are always on the bill: two of the festival's regular annual attractions, aka a huge artwork that transforms a 2.5-kilometre stretch of the majestic ranges, showering it with light each night of the festival; and Grounded, the installation projected over the red dirt at tourism and conservation facility Alice Springs Desert Park. The Ranges Light Show has taken over additional projection space in 2024, while Grounded has become more interactive.

Over its opening weekend, the program also included a three-night marketplace for the first time in the fest's history. The Northern Territory Indigenous Business Network (NTIBN) Buy Blak Market featured both food and other products from local Aboriginal businesses.

On the music roster across the entire event, Troy Cassar-Daley, Shellie Morris, Miiesha and Mulga Bore Hard Rock are taking to the stage. Cassar-Daley and Morris are also on the talks lineup, alongside Floyd Doyle and Dr Josie Douglas.

Parrtjima – A Festival in Light runs from Friday, April 12–Sunday, April 21, 2024, at venues around Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. For more information, visit the festival website.

Images: Parrtjima – A Festival in Light.


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Published on April 15, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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