EXCLUSIVE 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.”
But 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.