The 4 September marked 25 years since Wunala Dreaming, the first plane in the Qantas-Balarinji Flying Art Series, took off from Sydney International Airport to celebrate Qantas’ inaugural flight to Kansai International Airport in 1994.
Wunala Dreaming was created at a time when Aboriginal design was rarely showcased or celebrated. It was a culturally restorative statement by the best known Australian brand in the world.
The launch of Wunala Dreaming was a seminal moment for Australian art and Aboriginal culture. After its launch, it became the most photographed aircraft in the world and was one of the world’s largest pieces of modern art.
It was intended to be a three month promotion, but the joy and recognition Wunala Dreaming inspired all around the world kept it in the sky, including a re-paint, for 17 years.
The Qantas-Balarinji Flying Art Series that Wunala Dreaming began, grew to include another four Qantas-Balarinji aircraft: Nalanji Dreaming (1995), Yananyi Dreaming (2002) with the art of Rene Kulitja, Mendoowoorrji (2013) with Paddy Bedford, and Emily Kame Kngwarreye (2018), named for the artist.
For Balarinji it was both a personal and a public way to challenge the abhorrent intention of cultural cleansing that had taken Balarinji co-founder John Moriarty away from his mother during the Stolen Generations era.
Wunala Dreaming means kangaroo in the Yanyuwa language spoken by families in the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria. The art depicted the ceremony tracks of Kangaroo Spirit ancestors and the continuation of all living things in the harmony of nature.
Balarinji’s studio created the aircraft’s distinctive imagery in a contemporary graphic style that illustrated John Moriarty’s totemic stories and country in the NT. His ceremonial elders joined the inaugural flight to paint up and dance for the world’s media on the aircraft’s arrival into Osaka for the opening of the Kansai International Airport. The colours reflected the outback ochres of Australia - red for Uluru, blue-purple for the Flinders Ranges and green for Kakadu.
Wunala Dreaming and the entire Flying Art Series have became a powerful acknowledgement of Australian identity. We are proud to have partnered with Qantas to celebrate and showcase the beauty of Australia’s Aboriginal narrative on the global stage.