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Parrtjima - A Festival of Light in Australia's Red Centre

21 Mar 2022

Are you going to this year's Parrtjima Festival of Light in Alice Springs?

It’s not too late to book your FREE ticket and experience one of the world’s most incredible outdoor light shows!

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show

Credit: Parrtjima

With a 2022 theme of ‘Sky Country,’ this year’s Parrtjima (pronounced ‘par-cheema’ and meaning ‘lighting up’) will put the focus on our individual place in the universe. Emphasising the roles of the natural elements of sky, air and wind, guests will discover what they mean to the Arrernte Aboriginal people who have lived here for more than 20,000 years!

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show sky country

Credit: Parrtjima

Set to feature a number of signature installations that will light up the Red Centre sky as well as the natural canvas of the 300 million-year-old West MacDonnell Ranges, the free ten day event from April 8-17 takes place inside the Alice Springs Desert Park and will also showcase music, art and culture from a range of local and international contributors.

Curator Rhoda Roberts AO, who is returning for her fifth Parrtjima, said the theme of 'Sky Country' represents ‘an important part of the ecology and philosophy of aboriginal culture.’

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show kid friendly family horse

Credit: Parrtjima

“A lot of people haven’t heard of ‘Sky Country," she explained.

"We thought it would be a really nice introduction to Central Australia and Parrtjima - another trip you can make to see a totally different version of Country from the sky.”

According to traditional history, constellations have guided the Arrernte people across their homeland since for thousands of years.

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show sky country globe

Credit: Parrtjima

Reading the sky is also said to help Aboriginal people understand their place on Country, and they have long used the heavens to plan their harvest and hunting seasons. 

“Knowing the sky is the first step. The passing on of stories, retold from generation to generation, also speaks of how everything is so much bigger than us and needs to be protected,” said Rhoda.

What to see at Parrtjima

As much as the festival is known for its incredible displays of light in the desert, its lineup of musicians, independent films, art, culture and food are just as much of a drawcard.

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show sky country dan sultan

Dan Sultan. Credit: Parrtjima

“Dan Sultan, BARKAA, King Stingray – to name a few – are some of the artists we’re going to be celebrating,” says Roberts.

“You can attend a concert, do a workshop, see a film – it’s more than just a light festival.”

“I think the workshops prove that there is a groundswell, a renaissance, occurring among our younger generation.” 

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges house of darwin

Credit: @houseofdarwin

“The House of Darwin do so many projects across communities, but they’re also showing a new way of expressing culture.”

House of Darwin’s founder Shaun Edwards, a former AFL player and Larrakia man, leads the screen-printing workshops with Kakadu, Torres Strait Islander and Wuthathi woman Nina Fitzgerald. 

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show zoe fitzpatrick

Zoe Fitzpatrick. Credit: Parrtjima

Another workshop is earring painting with Zoe Fitzpatrick, a Yanyuwa and Garrawa woman from Borroloola and Alice Springs. 

Everything is free to attend but, as Rhoda explains, the workshops are popular and can be booked out in advance. Others include pottery, healing through digital storytelling and a beats-making workshop with rapper, drummer and music composer Dobby.

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show rayleen brown

Rayleen Brown. Credit: Parrtjima

There’s also a food demonstration by Rayleen Brown, a Ngangiwumirr and Eastern Arrernte woman and founder of Kungkas Can Cook.

She’ll be sharing bush food knowledge derived from thousands of years of sustainability experience. 

“Aunty Rayleen Brown would have to be one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met about the continuance of foods, particularly superfoods, where they grow and how you can process them.

“She focuses on foods that are significant to central Australia … not just seeds, but birdlife and mussels. She’ll demonstrate how you harvest them, then there’ll be tasting plates so people can get a feel for the flavour and textures.”

Check out the full 2022 program of events here

Things to do at Parrtjima

Amongst the spectacular schedule of light displays, art, music, film and culture, there are a number of other activities you can take part in. 

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light experiences alice springs

Credit: Parrtjima

One not to miss is the Sunset and Nocturnal Tour of the Alice Springs Desert Park. Including an intimate Welcome to Country, this is your chance to meet a local Arrernte Traditional Owner from the Parrtjima Festival Reference Group.  

Witness a beautiful sunset over the McDonnell Ranges and enjoy light refreshments in the amphitheatre before being guided through a spotlighting tour that gets you close to some of the most endangered animals of Central Australia.

Outback Ballooning is another activity we can’t recommend highly enough.

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show outback ballooning

Credit: Outback Ballooning

Take your sense of adventure to the skies, literally, and see Alice Springs like never before.

Flights take place approximately 15 kilometres south of Alice Springs, adjacent to the MacDonnell Ranges and over the historic Owen Springs Cattle Station.

Not to be forgotten is the Merne Bush Food and Medicine Tour which is another chance to meet local Arrernte Traditional Owners skilled in bush foods and medicines of the Central Australia region.

Learn about animals, plants and people that have lived in harmony with the desert environment for tens of thousands of years from experienced Alice Springs Desert Park guides.

Check out the full list of experiences here.

What is Parrtjima?

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show desert

Credit: Parrtjima

A meeting place of the old and new, Parrtjima is the only authentic Aboriginal light festival of its kind.

Its purpose is to showcase the oldest continuous culture on earth using the latest technology and the natural canvas of the 300-million-year-old MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia.

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show traditional owners

Each year this free event celebrates the ways in which artists evolve and experiment with different styles and materials, while staying true to Country and culture.

Parrtjima is held on Mparntwe (Alice Springs), which is connected to the estates of Mparntwe, Antulye and Irlpme.

This also includes a network of people who have connections to these areas; some of whom have established the Parrtjima Festival Reference Group (PFRG) to guide and help create Parrtjima.

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges light show sky country family friendly

Together, they invite visitors to come and experience Parrtjima, and watch the desert come alive with new artworks, light shows and a program of performances, interactive workshops, music, films and talks.

Stay at Discovery Parks - Alice Springs

Need a place to stay? Discovery Parks - Alice Springs is central to many of the NT’s natural wonders and attractions like Kings Canyon, Glen Helen and the Larapinta Trail, and provides travellers with a home away from home in the incredible Red Centre.

Things to do in alice springs parrtjima west macdonnell ranges dsicovery parks

A wide range of accommodation options are available depending on your budget from luxurious, self-contained deluxe cabins to budget-friendly rooms, safari tents and sites for caravans and tents.

Aside form attending Parrtjima, which will change your perspective on Indigenous culture, Alice Springs is the perfect place to begin any outback adventure in the Northern Territory.

Explore and learn the land’s ancient culture and history, take in beautiful and culturally significant artwork by local Aboriginal artists, or join a cultural event or activity such as Parrtjima – Australia's only authentic Aboriginal light festival!

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