Qantas unveils latest indigenous design on 787

February 14, 2018
Qantas's latest indigenous livery
Qantas's latest indigenous livery

Qantas has unveiled a stunning new color scheme for its latest Boeing 787 to honor indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians at Seattle today.

This is the fifth design in Qantas’ flying art series, which started more than 20 years ago, and is the second flying art aircraft currently in service with the carrier and the only one dedicated to international flights.

The unique livery reflects the long, rich history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and is in keeping with the airline’s commitment to championing reconciliation and promoting the best of Australia to the world.

READ: Finally an aircraft -the 797 – that all passengers will love. 

The latest design has been conceptualized by leading Indigenous owned design studio Balarinji, which has developed all of the flying art aircraft.

Qantas indigenous livery
The Qantas indigenous livery being applied in the Boeing paint shop

The new livery features the work of the late Northern Territory artist and senior Anmatyerre woman, Emily Kame Kngwarreye*. It is based on her 1991 painting, Yam Dreaming and has been adapted for the aircraft by leading Indigenous owned design studio Balarinji.

The artwork depicts the culturally significant yam plant, an important symbol in Emily’s Dreaming stories and a staple food source in her home region of Utopia, 230km north-east of Alice Springs. The aircraft itself will be named Emily Kame Kngwarreye in tribute to the artist.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the striking artwork is intended to encourage more people to explore the Indigenous elements that form part of ‘the Spirit of Australia’.

“As the national carrier, we’re thrilled to showcase another piece of Indigenous culture on one of our aircraft and to reiterate our ongoing commitment to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A team of more than 60 graphic designers, engineers and painters at Boeing’s Seattle facility worked with Balarinji to install the design onto the aircraft, taking more than ten days to complete. There are close to 5000 dots on the aircraft

“It’s a beautiful, bold artwork and so we hope it catches people’s eye and sparks a conversation about our country’s dynamic Indigenous culture,” said Mr. Joyce.

Managing Director of Balarinji Ros Moriarty said the design studio was honored to continue its 20-year partnership with Qantas to support the place of Aboriginal design in Australia’s global identity.

“It’s been a privilege to work with the brilliant imagery of the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Born in 1910, she began painting only in later life, completing more than 3000 exceptional works up until her death at 86 years of age. Her work embodies her cultural and spiritual connections to her country,” said Ms. Moriarty.

With the fourth 787, Qantas will be finally ready for its special London-Perth-Melbourne-Los Angeles route.

The four 787s will only fly that route.

The other Qantas designs were;

Qantas Indigenous designs Wunala Dreaming (background) and Nalanji Dreaming at Sydney Airport.
Qantas Indigenous designs Wunala Dreaming (background) and Nalanji Dreaming at Sydney Airport.

Wunala Dreaming

Inspired by the natural colors of Australia, Wunala Dreaming of the Yanyuwa people from the Gulf of Carpentaria, celebrated the reproduction of all living things in the continuing harmony of nature’s seasons. This artwork was carried on two different B747-400 aircraft (VH-OJB 1994-2003, and VH-OEJ 2003 – 2011).

Nalanji Dreaming

Nalanji, meaning ‘Our Place’, was a celebration of the balance and harmony of nature in Australia and reflected the lush color palette of tropical Australia. This artwork appeared on a Qantas 747-300 (VH-EBU) from 1995 until the aircraft was retired in 2005.

Qantas's indigenous design Yananyi Dreaming
Qantas’s indigenous design Yananyi Dreaming

Yananyi Dreaming

Using vibrant colors, Yananyi Dreaming by Rene Kulitja depicted the dramatic landscape surrounding Uluru. Pathways lead to the symbol of Uluru which was illustrated as both a physical form and as an abstract representation of concentric circles. Yananyi Dreaming was illustrated on a 737aircraft (VH-VXB) in 2002.

Qantas's indigenous design Mendoowoorrji
Qantas’s indigenous design Mendoowoorrji


Inspired by the work of late West Australian Aboriginal painter, Paddy Bedford, Mendoowoorrji is an interpretation of the 2005 painting ‘Medicine Pocket’ which captures the essence of Mendoowoorrji, Bedford’s mother’s country in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Mendoowoorrji was delivered to Qantas in 2013, taking over 950-man hours to complete over a five-day period. The 737-800 (VH-XZJ) remains in service with Qantas.