LUMINA is one of Europe’s premier light festivals and in 2016 featured work by Indigenous Australian artists, the Pitcha Makin Fellas. Collaborating with the festival organisers—Portuguese studio OCUBO—this unique opportunity saw Pitcha Makin Fellas bring their works to life among the 16th century buildings scattered throughout the town of Cascais, showcasing Aboriginal culture to a European audience and promoting greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
Pitcha Makin Fellas, a group of seven Aboriginal men most of whom had no previous art experience, came together in 2013. The group previously collaborated with OCUBO when they participated in the Melbourne White Night light festival.
With support from the Australian Embassy in Portugal and Department’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Public Diplomacy Program, two members of the group attended the festival in Cascais and conducted a brief Aboriginal ceremony around a campfire to open the show. To the sounds of the didgeridoo, images of Aboriginal hunters, kangaroos and cockatoos illustrating the story of the “six seasons” danced across gothic European buildings and the city’s fortress.
Ambassador Peter Rayner hosted a dinner with representatives of Pitcha Makin Fellas, OCUBO and the Cascais town council, and accompanied the two artists to an international primary school in Lisbon whose students had been learning about art and light.
Work by another Australian participant in LUMINA, Amanda Parer’s ‘Intrude’ was also very popular. Giant inflatable rabbits, lit internally, populated the beach and main square of Cascais, and were a particular talking point.
An estimated 450,000 people visited the LUMINA festival over four days, and the exposure is expected to lead to further international engagements for the Australian artists.