Festival lights up heart of the nation

The Parrtjima Festival is a dazzling celebration of the Aboriginal art of central Australia.
The Parrtjima Festival is a dazzling celebration of the Aboriginal art of central Australia.

The vast, undulating ridges of the MacDonnell Ranges are spectacular enough in their natural form, resembling the semi-exposed spine of some ancient creature.

But add some lights - well, two kilometres of them to be precise - and you have something truly mind blowing.

The ranges that snake around Alice Springs are front and centre at this year's Parrtjima Festival, an annual celebration of the Aboriginal art of central Australia.

About 12,000 people are registered to attend the 10-day event, which offers visitors a dazzling series of oversized installations that light up the desert sky every night and pay homage to various aspects of Indigenous culture.

One glowing work showcases unique fabric designs that have emerged from every corner of the nation, another is an interactive game involving luminescent honey ants that celebrates the work it takes to harvest the bush tucker.

But the grandest spectacle is the vibrant light show projected over a 2km expanse of 300-million-year-old mountainside, paired with a soundtrack by Aboriginal electronic music duo Electric Fields.

The Northern Territory Major Events Company is helping stage the festival, which is now in its sixth year.

Chief executive Tim Watsford says visitors can expect a beautiful collision of the oldest continuous culture on earth, and the newest technology, with a supporting program of talks, workshops and even a showcase of Indigenous film.

With 80 per cent of the event's 12,000 visitors coming from interstate, the festival is expected to provide a much needed boost to the local tourism industry.

Parrtjima runs until April 18.

Australian Associated Press