Parrtjima Festival: a Life Changing Experience in the Heart of Australia

Parrtjima Festival - a Festival in Light is one of those beautiful events you have to experience at least once in your lifetime. All is revealed as night falls. The Alice Springs Desert Park and Todd Mall burst into life with large-scale light installations for a 10 night celebration that draws people from all over Australia. A key part of the festival is also the incredible light show that is displayed onto the MacDonnell Ranges. This annual festival celebrates Indigenous arts and culture through music, film, talks and workshops. The theme for 2021 is 'Future Kultcha,’ a topic that focuses on intergenerational wisdom that is formed through oral traditions. The festival is taking place from the 9-18 of April and is completely free.

Artwork by Hannah Nungarrayi. Courtesy of Parrtjima, 2021.

‘Future Kultcha’ embraces a timeless oral way of learning, the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next that has taken place amongst First Nation peoples for eons. To learn you have to understand listening, taking the opportunity to listen to Elders, custodians and guardians of language and stories. At the core of the festival there are 7 different installations that reflect different aspects of culture. These include Landing Kultcha, Merging Kultcha, Revolving Kultcha, Harvesting Kultcha, Grounded Kultcha, Spirit Kultcha and Tailoring Kultcha. An example is Landing Kultcha, which explores traditional tools coming down from the ancestors to strengthen Indigenous culture, now and always.

“As one expression of an ever-adapting culture, the artworks featured in Parrtjima continue a tradition of using varying mediums and new ways of telling a story while continuing an ancient practice of listening to and ‘painting up’ country.” - Rhoda Roberts (Parrtjima curator), 2021.

Beautiful digital image of the Tailoring Kultcha installation. Courtesy of Parrtjima, 2021.

Opening night will feature an impressive line-up of events including the award-winning musical duo Electric Fields, who will perform their dedicated Parrtjima track on stage in front of the beautiful MacDonnell Ranges. This unique duo brings together the creativity of music producer and composer Michael Ross and the beautiful vocals of Zaachariaha Fielding. These two brothers merge living Aboriginal culture with electronic music. Other highlights include a fabric and textiles workshop with National Indigenous Fashion Awards Director, Nina Fitzgerald, talks with artists Jungala Kriss and Raymond Walters Japanangka, and the screening of classic movie Jedda. Other highlights for the rest of the festival include a performance by singer songwriter Casey Donavon, a discussion with NRL legend Josh Addo-Carr about his life and career and an introduction to bushfood with celebrity chef Mark Olive. 

Musical Duo Electric Fields. Courtesy of Darwin Festival, 2021.

Another exciting part of the Parrtjima Festival this year is an exciting youth competition based on the theme Future Kultcha. Flash Mob is an outreach social media and mobile phone competition that encourages Indigenous youth to continue the tradition of oral storytelling through modern-day technology. The competition is for youth aged 10-25 years and provides them with an opportunity to create and share a video that is true to who they are. Entrants are encouraged to think about ways that they can share their story, this could be based on traditional forms of storytelling. The prizes include Android phones and prepaid phone credit. A collection of entries will also be edited into a short reel that will be available via a variety of mediums. This includes a short video that will be screened nightly at the festival before the feature film. For further information and to enter click here.

Light Show display on the MacDonnell Ranges. Courtesy of Parrtjima, 2021.

Parrtjima provides a truly magical experience. An opportunity for all Australians to celebrate and learn about Indigenous culture through the arts in beautiful Alice Springs. If you’re nearby, there are 10 whole days of this incredible free event to enjoy. To attend all you need to do is register here. For those who can’t stay tuned for some incredible images and videos that will be shared once the festival begins, keep an eye on the Parrtjima Instagram and Facebook for posts and stories and put Parrtjima on your calendar as a must do for next year.