A Six-Metre-Tall Puppet Will Tower Over the Red Centre at 2024's 'Parrtjima — A Festival in Light'

The program also includes a three-night marketplace for the first time in the festival's history, featuring food and other products from local Aboriginal businesses.
Sarah Ward
March 01, 2024

When Arelhe Urrperle walks the earth, people will take notice. Spying a six-metre-tall puppet that weighs 600 kilograms wandering around is bound to draw attention. Seeing it mosey through Alice Springs Desert Park, sharing Arrernte stories and language, will be a main attraction at 2024's Parrtjima — A Festival in Light, in fact — and just one of the reasons that this Indigenous arts festival should be on your itinerary this autumn as well.

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 will be specific to the Red Centre, however, and see Erth's puppeteers train local Indigenous performers to operate the roving puppet for Parrtjima's 2024 run.

The dates to head along: Friday, April 12–Sunday, April 21. 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 just-announced program.

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 First Nations arts, culture and storytelling festival takes place against the 300-million-year-old MacDonnell Ranges. Comine that setting with art, music, talks, workshops and more, and a unique festival awaits.

2024 marks the ninth Parrtjima, with its ten-night lineup focusing on the importance of interconnectedness across First Nations culture for this year. That'll partly happen 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 will take over additional projection space in 2024, while Grounded will become more interactive.

From there, the program includes a three-night marketplace for the first time in the fest's history. The Northern Territory Indigenous Business Network (NTIBN) Buy Blak Market will feature both food and other products from local Aboriginal businesses.

On the music roster, Troy Cassar-Daley, Shellie Morris, Miiesha and Mulga Bore Hard Rock will take 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 will return 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 / Arelhe Urrperle images by Steven Woodburn.


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Published on March 01, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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