This week, state-of-the-art drone technology will take flight in Central Australia, creating a novel experience for visitors to Uluu through the use of indigenous storytelling.
The ongoing nighttime experience, which debuted on May 10, recounts a chapter of the Mala narrative from Kaukatjara to Uluu through immersive light and sound, captivating visitors. The technological performance required three years of development and A$10 million (approximately NZ$10.6 million) to become operational.
Wintjiri Wiu is the name of the experience, which roughly translates to “beautiful horizon view.” It is the first time that an Indigenous story will be told using lasers, projection, lighting, and drones on such a large scale and with such regularity – from May to December, two sessions will be held every night (with diminished frequency during the other months of the year).
1100 drones perform a choreographed dance that produces colorful images and shapes.
Alongside the visuals, Wintjiri Wiu employs a meticulously spatialized audio system, playing background music of the inma (which roughly translates as stories sung and danced’) and narration in the local Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjarra language (an English aural translation will also play).
The creation of Wintjiri Wiu involved collaboration between Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia and media architecture studio Ramus, as well as consultation with Aangu, who are the custodians of the Mala story depicted in the exhibition.
Rene Kulitja, a member of the Aangu Consultation Committee, applauds the introduction of the experience, stating, “People from all over the world have traveled to see Uluu. Now, we want visitors to experience our narrative in a new manner. We want visitors to recognize that this is our story and to gaze, listen, and feel alongside us. Since the beginning, our stories have existed, and we wish to share them with the world.
Ramus, a Melbourne media architecture studio that created never-before-seen imagery and animation, produces the technology. With two showcases per night, guests can choose to dine on native Australian produce and Indigenous bush cuisine while viewing the performance for three hours, or enjoy a one-hour experience later in the evening.