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HomeIssue 4Alice Festival of Light coming out of the dark

Alice Festival of Light coming out of the dark

p2327-light-show-1EXCLUSIVE by ERWIN CHLANDA
A Sydney company which provides light projections on large objects is tight-lipped about a “new event” in Alice Springs, planned, apparently, to be staged every September for four years.
The most senior Arrernte custodian in the town, Doris Stuart, is against the show, apparently named Festival of Light, which she understands will consist of projecting light onto a hillside.
And clearly there is more trouble brewing: The Alice Springs News Online received this text: “A young Warlpiri woman got the job of liaison with the Arrernte people about this show. Jacinta Price.” The anonymous message is obviously a stir.
Jacinta Price is the daughter of Bess Price, a front bencher in the CLP Government. Jacinta Price is a member of the Alice Springs Town Council and a performance entrepreneur and TV producer in her own right.
Jacinta Price says she has spoken to numerous traditional owners who are “excited and happy about the festival and the recognition of all the dreamings”. However, there are limits about how much she can say about the MacDonnell Ranges close to the Desert Park, the focal point of the festival.
Mrs Stuart says the entire range between The Gap and Mount Gillen is sacred, as the scene where in the Dreamtime a wild dog was involved in an extended battle with an interloper from the west, or in some versions, from the south-east.
“It’s a men’s story,” says Ms Price.
Mrs Stuart says she was visited by the organisers two or three times but was given no clear picture of what is intended: “I could not understand what they were doing,” she said. “No-one was upfront.”
p2278-Jacinta-Price-4But Ms Price (pictured) says it will be a “festival for the young people, for everybody born or growing up in this town”.
She says black or white, the senior law man and famous artist, the late Wenten Rubuntja, “called them all Yipirinya kids. The event will be in this spirit.”
The festival will put Alice Springs back on the map: “Uluru is getting all the attention right now,” she says. “This will boost our tourism industry and give the Arrernte people and young people a new sense of pride.”
Nothing of that scale has happened since the Yeperenye Festival in 2001 to mark the Centenary of Federation (photo at bottom, courtesy STEVE STRIKE, Outback Photographics).
Over the years the light festival will celebrate other landmarks around the town, using a giant top-down projector: “I’m not sure about the technical details,” says Ms Price.
Meanwhile the organisers say all will be revealed at the official launch on Wednesday next week, and are refusing to give any details.
A source, who has asked not to be named, says after repeated contact with the staging company, AGB Events: “They are thinking of projecting the caterpillar story on a dog story site,” namely Mount Gillen, from the Desert Park.
This is being denied by the artist putting the show together, Giles Westley, who declined to make any further comment.
Mr Westley’s website describes him as “Australia’s leading large scale lighting projection artist.
“With over 21 years experience in creative story telling, lighting, imagery and graphic design, Giles has a unique set of skills that combine the artistic, technical and human side of telling stories that connect to large audiences on the global stage.”
The NT Government’s Major Events company is also involved in the festival.
Like Mr Westley, a PR agent, Andrea Kerekes, was more explicit about what the event is not than what it is: “This is not tied to Vivid Sydney in any way.”
Vivid Sydney is the event staged by AGB Events depicted in the photo above (from the AGB website).
The News has inquired with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority whether an application has been made and we will update this report when the reply is to hand.
UPDATE 2:22pm May 13: No application has been lodged with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority in connection with this project. A spokesman says the authority has had discussions with the organisers. It was clear that the shining of lights could not cause any damage to a site, but AAPA has suggested consultation with traditional owners should take place.

Photo courtesy STEVE STRIKE, Outback Photographics.


  1. This doesn’t sound transparent to me. I think the light show sounds amazing; however it seems clear that proper consultation has not happened.
    Fair consultation is asking and then listening to what all parties involved have to say.
    Acting respectfully is not just asking those who are going to tell us what we want to hear, and then telling everyone who doesn’t think that way that they are wrong.

  2. Hi Alex, regrettably, no. It’s top secret. All will be revealed when they are good and ready. Except I can’t imaging there is going to be a lot more than what we published today.
    All the best, Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  3. The message is clear: It is not women’s business nor men’s business. It is no-one’s business.

  4. Its easy to take and use someone who has passed away words in a context to suit your own ends.
    Perhaps the late Mr Rubuntja meant we are all part of it, the story for a this country, and so we should respect those stories.
    As I understand it the dog story is about respect. An intruder dog comes in trying to claim territory and take over, causes all sorts of trouble and strife, but ultimately is ripped by the local and you can see his guts spread over the floor of Larapinta Valley.
    The basics of the story are explained in the book made by Mparntwe families “A town like Mparntwe”. Seems like Ms Price and AGB events as directed by someone in Darwin are acting like that intruder dog.
    Stolen the country already now trying to take over the culture. Be careful dears.
    And the Arrernte people already have much to be proud of. Denigrating or debasing their culture won’t be added to that list.

  5. Mr Westley can now add to his website that he has no respect for Custodians and their story for land.
    He prefers to listen to the wrong people with their own made up stories who have no right to speak on someone else’s country.
    He can also join the multitude of those that are educating the young with all the wrong information.
    Jacinta, I would have thought you would have had more sense than to back an event that was wrong from the beginning especially when your mother calls Mrs Stuart “sister”.
    Shame on you!

  6. Yes, totally agree with Giddyup: The late Wenten and is departed wife Cynthia were neighbors and friends. Their children grew up with mine.
    He explained to us that we have to learn the two ways to live in harmony. Respect of cultures was important to him: No judging, only understanding. You cannot be an Yipirinya kid if you do not respect tradition and culture.
    Wenten was sympathetic to the needs and interests of the Arrernte and the non-Arrernte.
    He also said: “You have to get the right country, get the right Dreamtine Story; don’t get somebody Else’s. Because you’ve got kwertengerle. (Hopefully Jacinta Price will understand.)

  7. Most senior Arrente custodian … mmmm … that’s intriguing, as the current chair of Lhere Artepe goes by that title also.

  8. @ Elvis: You’re correct in your comment about the “latest” chairperson for Lhere Artepe, however she also calls Mrs Stuart Mum / aunty when she wants her support. She’s just a little girl when it comes to Doris.
    If the “chairperson” may like confirm to all her true place in Mpartnwe.
    P.s.: The next chairperson will be claiming the same title, it’s just a merry-go-round.

  9. The Festival of Light is also the name of a rabid right-wing fundamentalist supposedly “christian” group in Sydney led by Fred Nile MLC.
    Perhaps the name could be changed to reflect a better example of something that represents harmony, compassion and a love of humanity. That repressive mob in Sydney certainly does not.

  10. This could be a great thing for our community but no unfortunately it is not for our community it’s a show for interstate overseas tourists.
    Someone in Darwin has contracted someone in Sydney to make a cultural festival about their version of the culture of Alice Springs. The culture of Alice Springs belongs to the people of Alice Springs.
    Local artists and cultural people black and white should have a huge involvement from the start in all aspects of the planning design and execution of this event.
    No, our culture is to be defined and imposed on us by outsiders. No Respect.

  11. @ Phil Walcott, posted 14th May.
    The Festival of Light (FOL) began in SA in the 1970s and is now known as Family Voice Australia (FVA) to more accurately reflect their values, one of which is to preserve the Marriage Act as a union between a man and a woman as the best model for the raising of children.
    The FVA is thus opposed to same-sex marriage, not those whose sexual preference is so-aligned. There is a distinction.
    How they can be construed as a “rabid right-wing fundamentalist supposedly Christian” group is your opinion.
    The Enlightenment values which you espouse, e.g., “harmony, compassion and a love of humanity” while ideal, are entirely subjective.
    Some people in our liberal democracy may consider your view as repressive.
    Fortunately, we are still able to express opposing views, even if freedom of religious expression is continually threatened and certain political parties oppose a conscience vote.

  12. So Jacinta has the job of liaising with local Arrernte people and uses the words of the late Mr Rubuntja’s out of context to justify the show.
    Mr Rubuntja wasn’t a mparntwe-arenye person but of course very respected and knowledgeable.
    Seems that if he was still alive Jacinta would think he was worth consulting with.
    There is another man also very knowledgeable and respected, Mr Rubuntja’s son, has she consulted with him? I think not. Perhaps because he is alive he might be able to disagree with her.

  13. I was born here in this beautiful land, I lived in Alice Springs all my life, that make me a kwerterngwele.
    I think Jacinta will do a great job, it doesn’t matter where she comes from. I think it’s gonna be really good for Mbantua / Alice Springs and its people, black and white.
    And for your information Jacinta, has Arrente blood in her veins from her mother’s side, she is both Arrente and Walpiri, so that makes her a kwerterngwele.
    Just to let people know what kwerterngwele means,it means custodian and in Aboriginal culture this person, the kwerterngwele, works for the land they represent to make it better to help the traditional land owners or Ampere akwete.

  14. Kwetungurle means its your mother’s father’s country. Doesn’t matter where you were born. It means your mother was ampereke-artweye her fathers fathers country. You need to be the right skin for this country, mparntwe and be descended from the original mparntwe-arenye families. There are not very many people with the right to call themselves ampereke-artweye or kwetungurle. This light show mob didn’t consult or didn’t consult with respect.

  15. To Alyeperenye: I don’t think I’ve ever read such ill informed crap in all my life. It is mind boggling how wrong your comments are, and the unfortunate thing is there are so many other Aboriginal people around here who have never bothered to find out the deep intricacies of Anpernerirrentye (kinship) and just how crucial that is to an individual’s links / connection to land, whether it be as an Apmereke-artweye or Kwertengwerle.
    Jacinta is not making a claim to be a kwertengwerle for Mparntwe but if she was, either her Atyemeye or Ipmenhe (MF, MM) would have to belong to Mparntwe as she does not have an Arrenge or Aperle (FF/FM).
    That goes for anyone.
    Just living here or growing up here does not imply you have any connection at all to the traditional estates.
    Penangke rightly points out that unless your Aperle, Atyemeye or Ipmenhe were apmereke-artweye for Mparntwe and belonged to the Kngwarraye/Peltharre subsection or someone further back on your family tree did, then you have no claim.
    Also, unless you are knowledgeable, partake in ceremonies and the ongoing maintenance of country, culture, sites, songs etc of a traditional estate, then you have a very shallow claim compared to those that do!
    You demonstrate the problem with some of our people today. They take a non-Aboriginal world view and try to adopt it and massage it to suit their needs, whether it be for monetary gain, an outstation, or anything else just because they think they are “Traditional Owners”.
    This is an insult to the people who live and breath their culture and languages, who understand traditional governance and kinship and who are the real apmereke-artweyes and Kwertengwerles. These are the people who should be listened to when it comes to talking for estates.

  16. Thank you, Penangke and Perrurle, for the information. I wonder how many snakes will be changing skins now. hahahaha.

  17. Hmm. I believe the current Chair of LAAC and her daughter are consulted regularly over breakfast about the Light Festival. They know what is happening. Ask them. They are the TOs that are consulted.

  18. Apmereke-artweye would question the rights of Lhere Artepe to talk for country. Many at Lhere Artepe have a tenuous connection to Mparntwe. I believe they are meant to discuss matters, advise perhaps, but the final say must be with the apmereke-artweye.
    I’ve seen the CEO chase apmereke-artweye out of their foyer when they were just using the space to get out of the heat to make a phone call on a private phone. No respect.
    I’ve seen the minister laughing at the dysfunction at Lhere Artepe, knowing that this dysfunction serves the aims of government and developers to damage sites and our precious cultural heritage.

  19. Interesting also that Ms. Price was involved at all. She lays the boots into her people / culture for all to see on social media and on TV and was recently quoted on a prominent talk back show that “We should forget about 40,000 years (of culture)…”
    She doesn’t know what team she plays for.


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