Qantas unveiled a new Boeing 737-800 in Seattle today featuring a striking indigenous art livery as a flying tribute to the world’s oldest continuing culture.
It is the fourth aircraft in Qantas’ flying art series in partnership with Australian designers Balarinji that began with the first indigenous livery Wunala Dreaming on a 747 aircraft in 1994.
Balarinji’s livery design is inspired by the work of late West Australian Aboriginal painter Paddy Bedford.
The livery is an interpretation of the 2005 painting Medicine Pocket, which captures the essence of Mendoowoorrji, Mr Bedford’s mother country in the East Kimberly region of WA.
It is a joint initiative between the airline, the family and estate of Paddy Bedford, Australian indigenous design studio Balarinji and the National Gallery of Australia.
The Balarinji Design Studio has collaborated on the design of all four flying art designs.
For more images of Mendoowoorrji go to airlineratings.com.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said that as Australia’s national carrier Qantas would fly this livery with great pride.
"It not only reflects our rich history as a country, it highlights the opportunities we have to promote our indigenous culture to the Australian public and international customers," Mr Joyce said.
Newly announced Qantas Ambassador, indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes, took part in the delivery.
“I am honoured to be standing alongside this aircraft in all its glory today,” Mr Goodes said.
“It represents our people and our culture and it is only fitting that Qantas as the Spirit of Australia is using this aircraft to showcase over 60,000 years of Aboriginal art and culture.”
The blessing of the 737 was led by Kathleen Watson, daughter of Paddy Bedford; Mona Ramsey, the niece of Mr Bedford; and Shirley Purdie, a prominent artist and important ceremonial singer and dancer.
Balarinji’s managing director Ros Moriarty lauded Qantas for its commitment to reconciliation.
“In our studio’s 30th year, it is a privilege to once again work with Qantas on an iconic indigenous art aircraft," Ms Moriarty said.
“We applaud Qantas for the leadership in supplier diversity and reconciliation."
Mendoowoorrji is the airline’s 69th 737-800.
Mr Bedford died in July 2007, aged 85, and was hailed as one of Australia’s coolest painters, although only 10 years into a spectacular career.
He found worldwide acclaim with his innovative approach to the Turkey Creek style of plain ochre and sparse lines pioneered by artistic luminaries Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie.
Mr Bedford, however, did not start painting for exhibition until he was well into his 70s, when a Melbourne art dealer stumbled across a collection of his discarded paintings bound for the local tip at Turkey Creek.
Deeply grounded in traditional lore and ceremonial practice as a senior Gija elder of Jawalyi skin, Mr Bedford enjoyed his rare ventures into the “whitefella art world” where he was feted by curators, buyers and other admirers.
However, in the city he cut a fine figure with his elegant silver-tipped cane, stockman’s hat and Armani suit he loved to wear to special occasions.
Former Art Gallery of WA director Alan Dodge told The West Australian on Mr Bedford’s passing that “he was a real character”.
“He was also one of the greatest indigenous artists of our time and a lot of people loved him personally," Mr Dodge said.
“He had a wonderful sense of humour and was a very warm person."
Mr Bedford’s humour and warmth was at the fore despite an upbringing that would break most.
After spending his childhood at Bedford Downs, Mr Bedford was incorrectly diagnosed with leprosy just before World War II and sent to the leprosarium in Derby where he met and married Emily Watson.
They had one daughter, Cathy, who was taken away, along with Theresa, a second daughter from another relationship, and raised in the mission at Beagle Bay.
Returning to Bedford Downs in the 1950s, he worked for many years as a stockman for rations of flour, tea and tobacco until he was forced to leave in the mass evictions in the early 1970s after the introduction of legislated equal wages.
He later worked for Main Roads, shifting rocks on the Gibb River Road before a back injury forced him on to welfare and retirement at the Warmun Aboriginal community at Turkey Creek.
It was there Mr Bedford took up painting.