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FOCUS: Changing The Flag Is Inevitable

FOCUS: Changing The Flag Is Inevitable
February 08
10:00 2015

The replacement of Fiji’s national flag to rid the country of a constant reminder of its colonial past has caused little mourning, but the emblem’s designer may shed some tears.

Tessa Mackenzie, who won a competition to create the nation’s flag when it won independence from the UK in 1970, has maintained that people still love the flag and “feel really proud of it”.

“I find it very difficult to envisage what they can choose which will be appropriate and relevant for everybody,” she said this week.

But flag experts have said the change was inevitable. Clive Cheesman, an official at the College of Arms, the UK’s official heraldic authority, told The Independent: “Some may say it’s bad that it’s going. We’re not going to regret its passing, it’s of its era and that era came to an end in 1987 [the year that Fiji was expelled from the Commonwealth].”

A new flag will be chosen through another national competition and will be revealed on the 45th anniversary of independence on October 10, with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama saying it should “reflect Fiji’s position as a modern and truly independent nation state”.

Mr Cheesman pointed to Canada’s maple leaf emblem as a successful change from a colonial flag. “They wanted to move away from that and reached a happy conclusion.”

Yet he said the heraldic community believes “anything more complex than the Canadian flag is getting too complex,” adding: “You have to remember that flags often hang limp, so you can’t always see what’s going on.”

Graham Bartram, the chief vexillologist – a specialist in flags – at the Flag Institute said: “The practicalities of changing a flag depend on the country and how many flags they have to replace. It is complicated.

“In Fiji they probably don’t have a huge amount as opposed to somewhere like America that would have to replace tens of millions.”

The Flag Institute, the UK’s national flag charity, has drawn up a list of “dos and don’ts” of designing a flag including: keep it simple, use meaningful symbolism and limit the colours to three.

Most go for the traditional 5:3 rectangle for flags, but Fiji could follow Switzerland and the Vatican State and design it square. Nepal has the most distinctive shape of two pendants combined.

“There aren’t many changes to national flags, maybe one a year, normally due to political ructions,” Mr Bartram said.

Graham Bartram’s best and worst flags

South Africa: ‘It has more colours than we would advise but it just works. It was known as the Rainbow Flag and South Africa is now known as the Rainbow Nation.’

Zambia: ‘All the important bits are on the right-hand side. The design won’t be seen when the flag hangs down. You have to move the eagle and the coloured stripes to the other side.’

Greenland: ‘It’s white over red, with a red over white circle in the middle. It’s very simple, it’s very striking and I think it’s just a great flag.’

Turkmenistan: ‘It’s a lovely idea: a stripe down one side which is carpet motif. But it’s incredibly complicated. To draw that is a nightmare. The level of detail is extraordinary, it is an actual carpet design. Drawing it took me two weeks.’


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