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Alice Springs' Dazzling Parrtjima Festival Has Revealed Its Luminous 2020 Program

Now in its fifth year, the festival celebrates Indigenous arts, culture and storytelling.
By Sarah Ward and Libby Curran
February 09, 2020
By Sarah Ward and Libby Curran
February 09, 2020

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 fifth annual program between Friday, April 3–Sunday, April 12 — and it has just started announcing its latest lineup.

The nation's first indigenous festival of its kind, Parrtjima's 2020 event will mark the festival's second in its new autumn timeslot. That move proved a big hit last year, with a record crowd of 25,000 attending the 2019 event. As always, the fest will continue its free ten-day public celebration of Indigenous arts, culture, music and storytelling — and its focus on dazzling light installations — in the CBD's Alice Springs Todd Mall, as well as at tourism and conservation facility Alice Springs Desert Park Precinct just out of town.

On the bill: new luminous displays, including a glowing sphere that'll be suspended three metres above the ground and a four-metre-tall flower, plus an opening night performance by Dan Sultan. They all fall under the theme 'lifting our spirits', with the 2020 fest particularly enthusiastic about "lifting the spirits from the work of artists, old and new, to the spirit of this year's audience".

If the thought of towering art already has you excited, the two aforementioned pieces — Grass Seed and Alatye (Bush Yam) — actually form part of a larger new artwork called Werte. Taking inspiration from the circular and lined meeting place symbols painted by local Arrernte artist Kumalie Kngwarraye Riley, it's designed to take visitors on a journey through the Alice Springs Desert Park Precinct, and also features an eight-metre-high piece about emus dubbed Emu Laying Eggs at Night.

Lighting the Ranges, Parrtjima festival, Alice Springs, Australia.
5/4/2019. Images courtesy Parrtjima / NTMEC

The 2020 lineup will also include Sultan's roots and blues tunes, with the musician hitting the stage alongside Australian earth sound band OKA — plus a heap of other Aussie acts that haven't yet been revealed. Then there's Deep Listening, a new series of talks in the Desert Park Cinema that'll pair contemporary topics of interest with a selection of films by Aboriginal filmmakers. And, over in the Todd Mall, Fire Stories will showcase local storytellers, alongside cabaret and music performances, and a roster of workshops.

As always, the Alice Springs Desert Park will come alive with the festival's main attraction. 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. Just what it'll feature this year hasn't been unveiled, but it's always spectacular — and it always highlights stories, symbols and knowledge of Aboriginal culture.

Another returning favourite is Ahelhe Itethe – Living Sands (Grounded), where installations are projected onto the earth accompanied by a striking soundscape.

Parrtjima festival, Alice Springs, Australia. 6/4/2019. Images courtesy Parrtjima / NTMEC

Of course, Parrtjima is just one of Northern Territory's two glowing attractions in 2020, 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.

Parrtjima – A Festival in Light runs from April 3–12, 2020 around Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. For more information, visit the festival website.

Images: James Horan.

Published on February 09, 2020 by Sarah Ward


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