Art in the sky

“It’s pretty busy down here”, a bloke said to me as we walked down to the foreshore of Darwin Harbour. He was worried about getting a good seat/view, and to be honest, so was I. Fairly quickly, it was evident that wasn’t going to be a problem, as people were fairly well spread out for the show. Nonetheless, there was a large number of people, likely the largest I’ve ever seen in Darwin. And they were all here to see a show featuring drones.

The first time I saw drones (not fireworks) light up the night sky was a few months ago, as part of the Vivid Festival in Sydney. Against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, it was pretty amazing.

But tonight I realised the full potential of drones as art in a show called balarr inyiny

Led by Larrakia artist Jenna Lee, supported by elders from the Larrakia community, in collaboration with music producer Kuya James and composer Lena Kellie, balarr inyiny (bah-lahrr een-yeen-y), meaning Light Dreaming, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the whole family.

See 160 drones take flight from Jervois Park in a breathtaking choreographed sky show illustrating Larrakia songlines that run down Darwin’s coastline.

Following on from the Fremantle Biennale’s Australian premiere of First Lights with Moombakibalarr inyiny uses new technologies to bring to life ancient stories of this place, transforming the way we understand Larrakia culture and our shared relationship to country.

Darwin Festival programme
balarr inyiny
balarr inyiny
balarr inyiny

The sound in the clips above is a little distorted, because I was sitting so close to the speakers. But in real life, it was stunning.

It was so much more interesting and meaningful than the drones over Sydney Harbour a few months ago, which were basically a giant ad in the sky for the Paramount streaming service. And, as stunning as the Harbour Bridge and Opera House can be as a backdrop, the night sky of the Northern Territory was so much more perfect.

Also today, I visited the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory for the annual National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award.

National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards
National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award

I’ve visited the exhibition in previous years and have enjoyed it very much. I enjoyed it again this year, though maybe not as much as previously. There were some amazing works, but nothing really stunned me, like before. These are a few favourites.

Mother of Pearl
Bruce Phillip Bradfield, ‘Mother of Pearl’, 2021, water-based paint, gouache, synthetic polymer paint pen, water-based pencils, black ink on paper 121 x 80cm.
A Strong Woman of the Country
Louise Robertson, ‘A Strong Woman of the Country’, 2022, recycled woollen blanket dyed with local Arrernte plants, wool and cotton 75 x 60 x 13cm.

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