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Light Show Adds Colour To Australia's Red Centre

It’s no usual Friday night in the Red Desert hub of Alice Springs.

A young Victorian couple is four months into a working trip to 'Alice'.

On what would otherwise have been another “night on the couch”, they head to the Desert Park that sits at the base of the imposing MacDonnell Ranges.

But tonight the landmark that dominates the town’s landscape, will take them on a journey much further than a working holiday.

“The culture and the stories,” she said.

“I didn’t know what to expect, and it’s amazing.”

He agrees.

Parrtjima is the region’s traditional owners -- the Arrernte people’s -- term for “lighting up”.

Beginning Friday, the fourth annual Parrtjima Festival lit up two kilometres of the ranges, but shed light on far more. In the UN’s year of indigenous languages, the creative minds behind Parrtjima conveyed a deeper understanding of the Arrernte culture and knowledge.

Moments after the light show premiere earns a respectful applause, curator Rhoda Roberts can relax.

“You get a little taste of why Aboriginal people are so connected to their landscape,” she told 10 News First.

Meanwhile, her seven-minute light spectacular repeats on loop, for the large crowd on opening night.

“It is humbling because we are entrusted with story-telling through light”, said Creative Director Anthony Bastic.

Both have worked on major productions, including the Sydney Vivid festival.

But Parrtjima presents unique challenges. Positioning four thousand lights in the three months leading up to the festival launch, a team of 100 installs the project in the harsh environment of Central Australia.

The precinct is splattered with displays and colour, yet seamlessly connected, by exhibitions showcasing the traditional works of 23 artists.

The festival has been strategically moved to April, to avoid clashes with other major events, across the nation. The cooler weather, at this time of year, is a pleasant bonus.

Event organisers are hoping to increase on last year’s 35 percent spike in attendance. Twenty thousand people, including a healthy contingent of international and interstate visitors, are expected to be drawn to the displays, throughout the festival’s 10 days.

But for the thousands that needed only travel a little further, to the outskirts of their hometown -- the event provided a sense of community pride -- but also rewarded those that chose to enlighten their cultural awareness, no “night on the couch” could match.

Feature Image: Parrtjima