Aboriginal-owned design studio Balarinji and Qantas have been recognised at the Sydney Design Awards for their work adapting indigenous artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s 1991 painting Yam Dreaming on a Boeing 787-9s.
The Dreamliner, named Emily Kame Kngwarreye, received a gold medal in the graphic design – identity and branding category.
Balarinji worked with Qantas engineering, Boeing and design firm Teague to prepare 2D and 3D renders of the layout, which included 5,000 individual dots, unique lines, and motifs from the original art work.
The design was applied in Boeing’s Everett facility on the outskirts of Seattle, a process involving a collaboration between Balarinji and a team of more than 60 graphic designers, engineers and painters to prepare and stencil the design onto the plane.
First images of the 787-9 were unveiled in February 2018.
The aircraft was delivered the following month, touching down in Australia for the first time at Alice Springs, not far from Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s home country around Utopia, 230 kilometres to the north east.
VIDEO: A look at Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND Emily Kame Kngwarreye arriving in Alice Springs in March 2018 from the Qantas YouTube channel.
“The Emily Kame Kngwarreye Dreamliner celebrates Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture on the global stage in a very public way,” Balarinji managing director Ros Moriarty said in a statement.
“It also gives Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s family and community recognition and the opportunity to share the artist’s acclaimed work with a wider, more global audience. The aircraft is a powerful statement of reconciliation and Australian inclusivity.”
The National Gallery of Australia describes Emily Kame Kngwarreye as “one of Australia’s leading painters of modern times”.
And the subject of her painting Yam Dreaming, were an important food source for indigenous people before introduced domestic and feral animals, grain cropping, and exclusion of the people from their traditional lands put an end to the wide-spread cultivation of the nutritious tuber.
VIDEO: A look at Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND Emily Kame Kngwarreye being painted from the Qantas YouTube channel.
The award was announced 25 years after Qantas commissioned the Sydney-based, Aboriginal-owned strategy and design agency Balarinji to produce the first of its “Flying Art” series. The result of that first commission was the striking, predominantly red Wunala Dreaming livery, subsequently used on two 747-400s.
Wunala Dreaming was followed by Nalanji Dreaming (747-300), Yananyi Dreaming (737-300), and Mendoowoorrji (737-800).
Moriarty said Balarinji was honoured to have a partnership with Qantas that helped showcase Aboriginal art around the world.
“When we first pitched the Flying Art idea to Qantas in the early 1990s, Aboriginal design was scarcely used in any corporate setting, let alone on a 700 square metre canvas that would fly above millions of people each day,” Moriati said.
“It is a partnership we have been honoured to share with Qantas, and a unique design journey for Balarinji.”
VIDEO: An Instagram video from the PWERLE Aboriginal Art Gallery on Emily Kame Kngwarreye
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The RAAF should commission Balarinji to design an indigenous livery for one of its No 34 Squadron VIP jets to celebrate the Air Force centenary in 2021. The 737 BBJ and Falcons travel to every part of Australia and the region – it would be an amazing tribute to both the First Nations people, and the amazing men and women of the RAAF. A design in the corporate colours of red, white and blue would look spectacular.