The Ghan has had a deadly glow-up with three of its carriages wrapped in Arrernte artist Chantelle Mulladad's artwork Crossroads. The work, in its colours of bubblegum pink and blue, turquoise and lilac is based on Mulladad’s teenage years. It explores her relationship with country and her journey to choosing the right path in life.
This meaning is fitting as the Ghan, almost a kilometre in length, has journeyed the 2.973km stretch between Adelaide and Darwin since 1929. As it does it passes through numerous Aboriginal sacred sites, cultures and communities. And so for two weeks the famous locomotive will serve as a mobile gallery celebrating the world's oldest continuing culture as it snakes its way across country.
The transformation is just in time for the Parrtjima light festival in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), where Crossroads will be displayed a second time. In line with the meaning of the Arrernte word Parrtjima, the festival aims to shed light on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures. The ten-day festival will showcase artwork, performances, music, film, workshops and talks, all from First Nations creatives with a dazzling light-show serving as the main event.
This is the first time Mulladad has been included in the festival since its inception in 2016. She is part of Keringke Arts, an Aboriginal community arts centre co-founded by her mother. The arts centre is located in Ltyentye Apurte, a remote town 85 kilometres south-east of Alice Springs.
Attendees of Parrtjima will see the Yeperenye (MacDonnell Ranges) illuminated in a tailored display of lights that marries the old landscape with new technologies. The lights will be in good company with live performances by Aboriginal electronic music duo, Electric Fields, supporting the exhibit.
Widjabul Wiyebal woman Rhoda Roberts, known for being the head of First Nations Programming at the Sydney Opera House, has curated the event. She describes the event as encompassing the “generosity and spirit of a peoples who have and always will care for country”.