After a memorable maiden voyage from the United States, Qantas’ majestic new indigenous art aircraft finally arrived in Broome last week, showcasing a livery design inspired by the work of late East Kimberley indigenous artist Paddy Bedford.
The Boeing 737-800, named Mendoowoorrji, is the fourth aircraft in Qantas’ flying art series, in partnership with Australian designers Balarinji.
See below for a video of Mendoowoorrji inflight.
Its striking artwork is an interpretation of the 2005 painting Medicine Pocket, which captures the essence of Mendoowoorrji, Mr Bedford’s mother’s country in the East Kimberley.
The aircraft was officially presented in Seattle earlier this month, before making its way back to Australia.
More than a hundred spectators packed out Broome International Airport to witness the arrival of the splendid aircraft, and erupted in cheers and applause as Mendoowoorrji glided into town around Wednesday lunchtime.
Special guests included Broome woman Kathy Watson, the daughter of Mr Bedford, Balarinji Studio creative director Ros Moriarty, Yawuru leaders, Gija elders from the East Kimberley and other community members.
Ms Watson said the special tribute to her father was very poignant.
“It’s very emotional and I’m proud to share it with the Australian, West Australian and the Kimberley people for promoting Aboriginal art.”
Ms Watson’s niece Maxine Charlie conducted a special welcome to country.
Ms Charlie said the project heralded a significant moment for indigenous artists throughout the country.
“It’s an honour to be part of this event,” she said.
“For us, every artist around Australia, this artwork is on the page so that if you dream big, the sky’s your limit.”
Ceremonial dancers performed in front of the aircraft as crowds lined up at the exit gates to enjoy the presentation.
A special blessing of the aircraft was conducted by Father Matt Digges of the Broome Catholic Diocese.
Qantas’ latest project took 18 months to complete in collaboration with Balarinji, the Bedford Trust and the National Gallery of Australia to ensure design of the livery reflected the original painting.
Qantas Head of Community Laura Berry said it was a special moment to bring the aircraft home ot where it all began.
“Qantas is proud to feature indigenous art throughout its fleet and we are very pleased to offer this piece of art to the Gija people of Western Australia.”
Ms Berry said the project had been ambitious and ground-breaking.
“This paintwork was particularly unusual because there are specific brush strokes within the shading on the sides of the aircraft and those techniques have never been tried before so the painters broke new ground in that respect by employing techniques that had never been employed before.”
Balarinji Studio creative director Ros Moriarty said it was an “emotional” day to bring the aircraft home.
“From Balarinji and the designers’ point of view, we are very gratefully that we were entrusted with the job of translating this old man’s magnificent artwork to this aircraft,” she said.
“A lot of paint, a lot of dots, a lot of time to translate, but we’re here to celebrate this old man’s work, he is a luminary in the art world.”
Qantas and Balarinji Design Studio have worked together for more than 20 years on aircraft livery projects and design work. Balarinji designed the first indigenous livery Wunala Dreaming on a B747 aircraft in 1994.
Paddy Bedford was born on Bedford Downs Station and worked as a stockman for most of his life. He began painting in his 70s and was a founder of the Warmun art movement and was credited for inspiring a generation of indigenous artists.