Butterfly effect: Displays at the Illuminarium light festival at the court of the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, in November. The Swiss city of Lausanne will be lit up during the Lausanne Lumieres festival until December 31. Picture: REUTERS
Butterfly effect: Displays at the Illuminarium light festival at the court of the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, in November. The Swiss city of Lausanne will be lit up during the Lausanne Lumieres festival until December 31. Picture: REUTERS

The Port Louis Light Festival was a bonus for tourists visiting Mauritius in November. The city came alive as its streets and parks were filled with lighting installations and its buildings used as a canvas for state-of-the-art lighting projections.

Music, street performers and dozens of stalls with delicious food to celebrate the island’s independence and start the holiday season were added.

Among the light shows on display were Photosynthesis, a luminescent interactive installation that mimics the steps of photosynthesis; Scintilla, which explores humans’ fascination with the night sky; and Subsee, a 360-degree video taken under the sea.

A special low-tech exhibition was held courtesy of SA’s Suntoy, which turned Consol jars into solar lanterns. CEO Harald Schulz said the installation, which led visitors through winding passages of light, consisted of about 500 solar jars.

Over the past decade, light festivals have been gaining popularity in cities all over the world — as a tourist attraction but also to bring life and light to downtrodden areas.

Vivid Sydney 2017 attracted 247,712 visitors — a 35% increase on 2016. The visitors stayed a total of 804,399 nights and contributed $143m to the New South Wales economy.

In SA, Melrose Arch, Sandton Square and Adderley Street will host gorgeous festive season lighting, but events such as Vivid Sydney, Kobe Luminarie in Japan and Fete de Lumiere in Lyon, France, are large-scale productions in which scenes are projected onto buildings using techniques similar to that utilised in theatre productions.

LED technology, which is a low-energy alternative to traditional sodium lights, is the preferred medium. This energy-efficient, low-cost technology has made light festivals an economic opportunity for cities hoping to invigorate their economy by promoting tourism with a cultural spectacle.

Artists also tap into cloud services, robotics and open data sets to drive new forms of design and moving imagery.

A frontrunner in the trend is the International Light festival Organisation (ILO), which initiates and manages many of the festivals and regards them as its mission to unite people globally.

ILO works with other festival organisers such as Glow and Lux to bring these happy, peaceful events to places around the globe. The vibe is young and energetic, with new, fantastic and innovative items to see. It is like a rave, but on a city scale.

With light projection, the sky is the limit and the productions are elaborate, colourful and awe-inspiring

Light festivals are "at the crossroads of entertainment, design and art, which gives them a very specific position … in a cultural context and as a city marketing tool", ILO says on its website. The organisation invites the public to become members and receive help organising a light festival.

This is a world peace project, using light: "ILO represents diverse parties from diverse nationalities, bringing across a unified message: to create a better future for all parties, a network inspires, exchanges information and informs everyone that is involved. This integrity is ILO’s main driving force."

With light projection, the sky is the limit and the productions are elaborate, colourful and awe-inspiring.

Among the best light festivals worldwide are:

Lausanne Lumieres: Until December 31.

The Swiss city with its breathtaking view of Lake Geneva and the Alps will be illuminated. About 15 luminous installations and sculptures have been created in the city centre and guided tours of the festival can be booked.

Christmas on a Great Street, Orchard Road, Singapore: Until December 31.

Throughout the holiday season, the festival turns the island state’s retail and entertainment hub into a fantasy land with Christmas lights, decorations and entertainment.

Lux Helsinki: January 6-10 2018.

The Finnish capital’s fine Art Nouveau architecture lends itself to this vibrant event.

On the programme are intriguing shows such as Subliminal, which deals with the observation of space; Flowerlux, featuring colour, countercolour and light; and Ultraviolet Gallery, in which six sculptors explore "glittering graffiti".

Ghent Light Festival: January31-February 4.

International light artists head for Ghent every year to turn its historic sites and monuments into a thrilling spectacle. The city’s nights will become the backdrop for a surprising spectacle, ingenious installations, spectacular performances and beautiful events, all based on light. The Light Festival puts the Ghent lighting plan, which is a carefully crafted network of atmospheres and accents that has won international awards, in the spotlight.

Illuminart Montreal: February22-March 4.

Held in the Montreal city centre, the new Illuminart circuit fuses art, lighting and technology, emphasising discovery and exploration.

i Light Marina Bay, Singapore: March 9-April 1 2018.

i Light Marina Bay focuses on art that is sustainable. With its waterfront promenade that stretches for 3.5km, ArtScience Museum and eco-friendly visitor centre, the bay is a showcase for the festival’s 40 sustainable light art installations. The event focuses on promoting renewable energy sources such as solar power and offers services such as an LED light bulb exchange stall.

Lux Light Festival Wellington, New Zealand: May 18-27.

The Lux Light Festival turns Wellington into a celebration of light, art, technology and design. The largest light festival in New Zealand, it will showcase an array of light sculptures by outstanding nationally and internationally recognised artists, designers and architects.

The Berlin Festival of Lights: October 2018.

The motto at Berlin’s biggest light festival is Creating Tomorrow. The city’s cathedral has been included with three-dimensional video mapping, with artists presenting their vision of the futuristic theme.

Vivid Sydney, Australia: May25-June 16.

The Lighting of the Sails: Audio Creatures was 2017’s highlight. It featured pulsing sea creatures, colourful birds and iridescent plant life projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House. The designers are bound to come up with something equally exciting in 2018.

Other sites that have been chosen for illumination are the Royal Botanic Garden, where the plants, rock walls, tree canopies and the trunk of a 100-year-old ficus tree will be used as organic canvases.

Kobe Luminarie, Japan: December 8-17.

Drawing about 3-million visitors a year, Kobe Luminarie has a more sombre theme: It was initiated in 1995 to commemorate the Great Hanshin earthquake and to serve as a symbol of hope. Since 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami have been added to the commemoration. The city’s buildings will dazzle with 200,000 hand-painted lights donated by the Italian government.

Amsterdam Light Festival, Netherlands: December 1-January 21.

A highlight is a boat ride to see the Water Colours display as the canals shimmer with the reflections of light sculptures, projections and installations by contemporary international artists. There is also a walking route, Illuminade, which winds through the city centre.

Also check out interesting light-related activities and learn about innovations in light art.

Focused on sustainability, the lighting design is hi-tech, interactive and smart.

Light City Baltimore, US: March 31-April 8.

More than 50 light attractions including illuminated visual art installations and video projections on buildings, as well as music, liven up the area around the Inner Harbour area. During the day, Labs@LightCity brings together innovators and thought leaders to explore how society can become more equitable through innovation.

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