Parrtjima: A Festival in Light is often compared to Sydney’s Vivid – but this 10-night light spectacular is truly in a league of its own. 

Held in Alice Springs (Mparntwe), this free festival is the only authentic Aboriginal light festival of its kind, showcasing the oldest continuous culture on earth through spectacular light installations which light up the Red Centre at Alice Springs Desert Park. 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.

The backdrop to Parrtjima (pronounced “par-chee-ma,” meaning “lighting up”)  is the spectacular 300-million-year-old MacDonnell Ranges: a natural canvas which is illuminated by a two-kilometre stretch of light installations every night until 10.15pm. 

See the desert come alive with new artworks, light shows and a program of performances, interactive workshops, music, films and talks.


Render of the 2023 Parrtjima light installation. Image: Supplied.


Listening with Heart

The theme for this year’s festival is Listening with Heart (Kunturu Kulini). Inspired by the artwork surrounding the Statement from the Heart, Listening with Heart embodies the concept of coming together, meeting and taking the time to contemplate, reflect and heal.

 Parrtjima Curator Rhoda Roberts AO, who returns to curate the festival for the seventh year running says: “Parrtjima means shedding both light and understanding, but it’s much more. It’s the generosity and spirit of a peoples who have and always will care for country and for the many travellers who visit this timeless land.”

Led by Maruku artist Rene Kulitja, a group of artists from Mutitjulu (near Uluru) created the Statement from the Heart artwork. It depicts Uluru-Ku Tjukurrpa (The Uluru Story of connection). Rene will work alongside other artists to bring the stunning piece to life as a large-scale immersive light and sound installation in the red soil of Mparntwe (Alice Springs), on Arrernte country.

As you become immersed in the visual and audio installation, you will hear the ancient songlines and Indigenous perspectives of what country means – learning to walk together, connecting, while listening to the First Peoples’ deep connection and philosophy of land, water and sky country.


Render of the 2023 Parrtjima light installation. Image: Supplied.


A jam-packed program

NTMEC CEO Suzana Bishop said the Parrtjima program has a fantastic selection of music, talks and workshops to attend between observing the immersive light displays.

“Parrtjima will once again deliver a program that is exciting with a spread of events and workshops that celebrate and share Aboriginal culture,” she said. “The festival puts Alice Springs on the map and showcases one of the most striking landscapes in the country, with visitors expected to stay and explore other parts of the Red Centre.”

The jam-packed Parrtjima program has something for everyone, including workshops led by Central Australian art centres: the Hermannsburg Potters, Ikuntji Artists, Warlukurlangu Artists and Iltja Ntjarra “Many Hands” Art Centre. 


Hermannsburg Potters, with Karen Inkamala. Image: Genevieve Walshe.


There will also be dance workshops with GUTS Dance and demonstrations from Maruku Arts, including Tjukurpa storytelling in the sand.

The selection of films and documentaries include Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy and Looky Looky Here Comes Cook, a fresh, funny and provocative look at the Captain James Cook legend from a First Nations perspective, debunking the myth that Cook “discovered” Australia.

The program also features a series of talks with some of Australia’s most well-known Indigenous public figures, including self-proclaimed “faboriginal” comedian and actor Steven Oliver, as well as former Northern Territory Senator and Olympian Nova Peris.

Plus, you can soak up some awesome music from the likes of Kaiit, The Merindas, The Andrew Gurruwiwi Band and Paul Ah Chee.


Westwind Djalu Gurruwiwi and Gotye. Image: Supplied.


AGB Events, Creative Director Anthony Bastic AM says the curation for the festival programming is based on continuing culture.

“The true essence of Parrtjima has always been about sharing knowledge and the telling of Australian cultural stories, I think this year it’s time to listen. The artists and talent featured at Parrtjima this year all have interesting and diverse experiences and it’s a wonderful opportunity to come together with open minds and embrace their perspectives.”

 While the festival is free to attend, visitors are encouraged to register early for program events here.


For more awesome cultural festivals, check out the Laura Dance Festival in the Cape York Peninsula.


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