Uluru is on most people’s bucket lists, and now there is another reason to go…the greatest show on earth and in the sky.
Wintjiri Wiru is a new awe-inspiring light show. It has taken over $10m and three years to bring to life the ancestral Anangu story through groundbreaking technology with drones, lasers and light. With two shows a night, this is the largest, repeatable show of this kind on earth.
I am here in Uluru, the ancestral heartbeat of Australia on opening night. Home to the beginning of creation and the lands of Anangu – who are one of the oldest continuous living cultures in the world. In an epic voyage of time, trust and understanding, this story came from the land, it came from listening deeply, in many dimensions, not simply with ears but with hearts.
It’s just after 5pm and the bus has dropped us off as we walk out on suspended wooden paths which weave upwards in soft curves, lifting us from the desert floor towards a natural sand dune, perfectly positioned to be our viewing platform to the most notable prima ballerina that ever lived, Uluru.
The wooden deck holds over a hundred people with multiple viewing levels which cascade to the ground. It is bejewelled with rolled up red blankets ready for us to snuggle into in a few hours. On opening night 10 elders of the working group who collaborated with RAMUS studio (led by the legendary lighting genius Bruce Ramus) and Voyages Indigenous Tourism, are gathered to our left. We are welcomed with Bimbagen sparkling wine, music and a performance of dance.
Indigenous & TV chef Mark Olive, famed for his work on The Outback Café, A Chefs Line and On Country Kitchen, has crafted dining experience to showcase Australian flavours. There are two shows a night and the ‘Sunset Dinner’ including canapes and a gourmet hamper along with a generous range of different ‘amber nectars’. The second show is a shorter experience later in the night.
A delicious Spiced Apple Tonic has found its way into my paws! It’s created from indigenous-owned Beachtree Distilling Company using organic Koala Gin. For purely professional purposes I also try the Jarrah Boy Golden Sun larger (refreshing and zesty). Other canapes being served include a gin-infused cucumber half which is topped with green ants and celery salt which I try to imagine as salt & pepper! Truffle brioche sliders of blackened mountain pepper beef fillet are a crowd favourite but it’s perhaps the humble curry pies with creamy lemon myrtle which is the winner, perhaps because most people think they are eating chicken rather than knowing its a croc! Veggie options include a mushroom pie and a pink beetroot slider, which is another reason not to wear white here.
As the sunsets behind us, the earth is illuminated in a way the ground and sky merge into a million tangerine hues. We are asked to take our seats. On a normal night this is when we would be tucking into a hamper of savoury goodies.
The show starts as the surround sound kicks in. First we hear the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara languages as we listen to a traditional Inma (ceremony) soundtrack which was recorded by local Anangu community members.
Uluru is dark against a softly sleeping sky, and we hear a man’s deep voice…“The story begins with the Marla people conducting the Inma…” . Light projections illuminate imaginary fires across the landscape. It starts first on earth, then rises to the heavens.
Over one thousand drones (actually 1269 to be precise) become our story tellers. There are two fleets of drones and three pilots hidden from view. The first 400 drones lift from their hidden sleeping spot in the distance and like a ballet, in the second act the next 800 take over.
The story of Mala (rufous hare-wallaby) unfolds through light, projection and movement. The Mala have an invitation to join another inma. A huge devil dog called Kurpany was created to destroy the Mala as they could not join the ceremony. Luunpa, the Kingfisher Woman, warns them (why do men not listen to women?!) The evil spirit shape-shifts into many forms trees, rocks, and birds, and ultimately, Kurpany kills many of the Mala men, (saving the women), and they flee South from Uluru. These women are still living here at Uluru today. The Kingfisher Woman still keeps watch, and the dog’s footprints are embedded in Uluru.
The sky is illuminated over the next 22 minutes, the ground morphs from red flames into blue rivers, round pools, and tree forests. Trees become airborne, a kingfisher birds flies above us and the devil dog hunts us overhead, then opens his mouth and comes towards us to attack. It’s eerie, moving and deeply profound. At the end of the show its as if we are all adjusting back to normality. One of the women from the 10 senior Anangu working group shared that she looked up that night and could hear her ancestors talking to her, her grandmother’s voice, the one that spoke to her, sang to her the story of Mala.
That night we all looked up, we learned, we heard and we have returned forever changed…
Gourmet canapes and cocktails will be served at the three-hour Sunset Dinner performance followed by a selection of hot and cold native inspired dishes paired with premium Australian wines. The Wintjiri Wiru Sunset Dinner experience includes return resort transfers and is priced at $385pp.
A second show each evening called After Dark is a shorter, one hour-long experience including light refreshments followed by the show. After Dark costs $190pp.
Acknowledgement: Anangu share the Mala story, from Kaltukatjara to Uluru, through a drone, sound and light show designed and produced by RAMUS. Photo credits to Getty Images for Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.