The NRMA launched its Ocean Dreaming 2 fast ferry which has been wrapped with livery created by Gomeroi artist and Nowra TAFE teacher Warwick Keen.
The artwork will adorn the vessel permanently as it provides whale watching tours outside Sydney.
Award winning local Aboriginal artist Warwick Keen said his work was an interpretation of the once traditional art practice of tree-carving utilised for ceremonial purposes.
At the boat's launch on Wednesday, June 9, the Nowra TAFE teacher of 13 years was giving a talk about his art when the ferry cruised up behind him.
"I didn't hear it coming. It stopped me from speaking because I saw the boat and I thought wow look at that," he said.
His cultivation of an artistic brand of wavy Aboriginal designs began 25 years ago, incorporating text within the last 15.
"I've almost got a branding of my own where I use a lot of that wavy line design and I utilise text to suit the context of the work that I'm working on," he said.
"In this project, I was given a list of Aboriginal place names in and around Sydney harbour and that's the text you see on the boat. The place names relate to the different clans that lived and still live in and around Sydney.
"The colours are drawn from traditional aboriginal art - so your colours are red ochre, yellow ochre, white (what's called pipe clay) and black."
The new-look vessel has been launched as part of the NRMA's contribution to the Sydney Solstice Festival and to kick off two new cruise experiences in partnership with Tribal Warrior - the Aboriginal Whale Watching Experience and Aboriginal Sky Dreaming Cruise.
At the beginning of 2019, the NRMA in partnership with Urban Art Projects (UAP) approached Aboriginal artists to design the wraps of six ferries.
Mr Keen's successful entry involved manually drawing the designs onto templates of the different sections of the boat; the only time photoshop was used was to change the colours of each version he submitted.
Most of Mr Keen's work was done by the time COVID-19 caused the project to halt for 12 months as employees of UAP had to work from home.
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From start to finish - leaving out 12 months of COVID intervention - Mr Keen spent 20 hours a week for three or four months on the project all on top of teaching at TAFE.
Over the last four years, Mr Keen has completed a number of local major projects involving this art style, including a mural on Bomaderry Indoor Sporting Complex in 2019 in the theme of "coming together", an anti-graffiti project for Transport for NSW in Woonona in 2018 and a wrap for one of Fulton and Hogan's training hubs in 2019.
NRMA's Aboriginal Whale Watching will provide Sydney's iconic whale watching experience through a culturally unique lens, with a focus on the importance of whales to Aboriginal culture. Stories of land, water and sky will be told by Yuin Elder, Uncle Max Harrison and Dean Kelly.
Mr Keen said the purpose of the NRMA project was to mark its 100th year of service through an initiative of Aboriginal inclusivity involving the theme of reconciliation.
"I just think to have that artwork on the harbour is a significant acknowledgement for first nations people," he said.
"To be involved in this project on a grander scale has been significant for me from a personal as well as professional point of view."
Both experiences will run for the duration of the Sydney Solstice Festival until 20 June. At the end of the Festival, Ocean Dreaming 2 will revert back to providing whale watching and other tourism experiences throughout Sydney Harbour.