Four weeks until Sydney Opera House sails are transformed with a ground-breaking First Nations animation

Sydney – Friday 29 April, 2022. A new digital artwork Yarrkalpa – Hunting Ground, 2021 will illuminate the Sydney Opera House sails from 27 May – 18 June for Vivid Sydney. The annual festival of Light, Music and Ideas will transform the Harbour City over 23 nights, with more than 200 events celebrating the essence of Sydney’s soul including its diversity, beauty, resilience, First Nations culture, and vibrant creative community.

Two years in the making, the First Nations projection is a collaboration between the East Pilbara-based Martumili Artists and Sydney-based creative technologists Curiious, bringing to life the Parnngurr community and its surrounding landscape, with an accompanying soundtrack by Electric Fields’ Zaachariaha Fielding and Michael Rossfeaturing the vocals of the Martu Artists and the voices of Antara singers from Zaachariaha’s Anangu community.

The stunning animation is inspired by the Martu Artists’ collective painting Yarrkalpa – Hunting Ground, Parnngurr Area 2013 and the video artwork Yarrkalpa – Always Walking Country 2014, directed by internationally renowned artist and filmmaker Lynette Wallworth in collaboration with the Martu Artists and Anohni. The complex painting by eight Martu women represents an intimate connection with Country; cataloguing seasons, traditional burning practices and cycles of regrowth, hunting, land management and vital natural resources, as well as ancestral stories passed down to the next generation.

Martumili Artist, Ngalanka Nola Taylor, says: “We painted Yarrkalpa on a canvas together, biggest canvas we did together, everybody. It’s like a map showing our ngurra (home Country, camp). It’s about storytelling, what we used to do. The Hunting Ground where we come from, the kapi (water), yinta (permanent spring), nyurnma (burnt country). Everybody all done little pieces, places we came from. We are happy and excited to see Yarrkalpa alive on the Sydney Opera House sails for the first time.”

Sydney Opera House Head of Contemporary Music and Vivid LIVE Curator, Ben Marshall, says: “Having grown up in the Pilbara, it’s an especial joy to be welcoming this beautiful collaboration between the eight immensely talented Martumili Artists and Sydney’s ingenious Curiious. One of our most outstanding commissions ever, this bold artwork will strike across the Sydney Opera House sails, animating and sharing fresh perspectives on ancestral practices and knowledge of Country. With an original soundtrack created by our friends Electric Fields, Yarrkalpa – Hunting Ground spectacularly embodies Vivid LIVE’s celebration of community. I’d also like to thank Rhoda Roberts AO for providing this wonderful project with her continuous guidance and care.”


Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade, Minister for Tourism and Sport and Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres said, “The Lighting of the Sails is iconic to the Vivid Sydney program and will signal to the world that the Harbour City is open and reinforce our position as the events capital of the Asia Pacific. We’re so proud to share this incredible digital artwork which celebrates our First Nations communities and showcases incredible Australian talent to millions around the world. The Opera House sails are lit up each night of Vivid Sydney and I encourage everyone to come down to Circular Quay and enjoy this phenomenal artwork, enjoy the Light Walk and immerse yourself in the Vivid Sydney program.”

The bold animation created by Sydney’s Curiious utilises a range of techniques to create a seamless connection between the tactile painting and the digital artwork, bringing to life the vibrancy, energy, language and rich storytelling of the Martu. 

Creative Director & Lead Animator, Curiious, Frederic Simard says: “Bringing Yarrkalpa to life on the Opera House sails is the ultimate tribute to the Martu Artists.The Sydney Opera House sails have allowed us to enliven the narrative hidden within the painting, while offering a new perspective on their art for audiences to discover the deep connection the Martu have with Country. It is a humbling reminder that we all have an essential role to play in preserving our ecosystems.

Electric Fields’ Zaachariaha Fielding and Michael Ross added: “We created this composition inspired by the story of the Yarrkalpa painting and the textural tempo of the animation by Curiious. Working with cyclic repetition, we have taken moments of traditional songs and woven together a composition bringing material from both the Martu communities and Antara singers from Zaachariaha’s Anangu community.”

Blind and vision impaired visitors and their companions are invited to listen to live audio visual description of the sails lighting, with sessions on Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 June at 6pm. Registration is free and essential. For more audio description videos of Vivid Lights, please go to the City of Sydney website.

Lighting of the Sails
YARRKALPA – HUNTING GROUND, 2021 

BY THE MARTU ARTISTS AND CURIIOUS 

WITH SOUNDTRACK BY ELECTRIC FIELDS FEATURING THE VOCALS OF THE MARTU ARTISTS

(INSPIRED BY YARRKALPA – ALWAYS WALKING COUNTRY 2014)

Lighting of the Sails is a free projection that runs each night of Vivid Sydney from 6pm – 11pm AEST

The global premiere will be streamed live on Friday 27 May via the Opera House Facebook page and Stream

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