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Parrtjima Aboriginal light festival to return to Alice Springs

Phoebe Blogg -

Celebrated as the only Aboriginal light festival of its kind in the world, Parrtjima (pronounced Par-Chee-ma) will return to Alice Springs this week for it's ninth iteration.

Set to take place from April 12-21, the festival will light up Alice Springs (Mparntwe) with a full program carried out across ten nights. This years theme focuses on the importance of interconnectedness across First Nations culture.

Whilst the light show will feature several new installations, returning favourites including the Ranges light Show and Grounded are bound to grab attendees attention for yet another year.

The Ranges Light Show, which sees almost two kilometres of the 300-million- year-old MacDonnell Ranges come to life through a spectacular light and sound show, will feature additional projection space to enhance the immersivity of the experience.

Behind the scenes at Parrtjima 2023. (Image: Parrtjima Australia)

Grounded, which projects animated Indigenous art onto the red sand of the region accompanied by a soundscape, will be more interactive, adding a fun new dimension to this much-loved installation.

One new and highly anticipated installation set to feature in this year's show is Arrernte, a series of illuminated cars which celebrate a collage of work across Eastern, Western and Central language groups, and Honouring, an immersive passageway that will pay homage to great Arrernte leader the late Dr MK Turner OAM and celebrate her way of connecting through ancestral stories, language, knowledge and art.

Another new addition to Parrtjima is a legendary large-scale wandering puppet, six metres tall and weighing 600kg, operated by visual theatre wizards Erth.

Named Arelhe Urrperle by the Parrtjima Festival Reference Group, she will delight people of all ages as she strolls through Alice Springs Desert Park, sharing language and stories. Expert puppeteers will also train local Indigenous performers on how to operate her.

(Image: Parrtjima Australia)

For the first time in the festival's history, Parrtjima has also announced it will host a three-night marketplace, showcasing a variety of food and products from local Aboriginal businesses.

Called Northern Territory Indigenous Business Network's (NTIBN) Buy Blak Market, the marketplace is a collaboration with Desart, the peak arts body supporting Central Australian Aboriginal art centres.

Parrtjima Curator Rhoda Roberts AO shared her thoughts on this year's festival, mentioning the true essence and focal point of Parrtjima has always been about sharing cultural knowledge, new expressions transforming stories from First Nations people, and expanding the impact of Aboriginal artists in the public's consciousness.

"Increased cultural expression leads to a greater understanding of First Nations heritage and experience, shaping the way rich and vibrant cultural connections are showcased for new audiences," Ms Roberts said.

Behind the scenes at Parrtjima 2023. (Image: Parrtjima Australia)

Delivered by Northern Territory Major Events Company (NTMEC) in partnership with Creative Directors Grumpy Sailor and events destination company We Are Gather, this year's program has been thoroughly developed.

NTMEC ceo Suzana Bishop stated that Parrtjima is a captivating experience, quite like anything else in Australia.

"Parrtjima is something special. The light installations which use the latest technology, the program which provides room for truth-telling and healing between Aboriginal Australians and the wider community, and the landscape where it takes place – all this adds up to a magical experience in the desert," Ms Bishop said.

"We value working closely with people from local Aboriginal communities to help them use Parrtjima as a vehicle to tell their stories. The festival puts Alice Springs on the events map, showcasing one of the most striking landscapes in the country and celebrating the world's oldest living culture.

"We're looking forward to welcoming visitors from all over Australia and the world who will be able to stay and enjoy some of the unique tourism experiences on offer in this iconic location."

(Image: Parrtjima Australia)

Aside from the festival's new and returning light shows, a series of emerging and established talent will also appear at Parrtjimal.

Australian country music star Troy Cassar- Daley, and singer-songwriter Shellie Morris will be joined by a range of performers including ARIA award-winning R&B artist Miiesha and Red Centre glam- rock band Mulga Bore Hard Rock.

Musicians and singer-songwriters Troy Cassar-Daley, Shellie Morris and Miiesha will also feature in the talks program, as well as perform during the festival.

"We've got an incredible program of speakers for Parrtjima this year, with a fascinating range of topics to be covered," Ms Roberts said.

"This is a real opportunity to listen to and learn from some of Australia's top First Nations voices, and that's what the spirit of Parrtjima is all about. Listening, learning and interconnecting to better understand each other.

The talks program will also include musicians Floyd Doyle, Dr Josie Douglas, and more.

(Image: Parrtjima Australia)

With an impressive schedule, carefully curated selection of shows and a series of established talent set to perform, this year's festival offers a diverse portfolio of Indigenous events and talent, all striving to celebrate and showcase First Nations culture, community and craft.

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