El Quince de Septiembre

Today marks the 195th year of independence for the Central American nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. An excellent day to learn to distinguish this close-knit family of flags. To make this a bit more challenging, here are the versions of the flags for civilian use (“civil flags”), and in random order.


Fijian PM Cancels Plans To Change Flag

The long wait for news about Fiji’s long-delayed plans to change its flag is over.  Yesterday Prime Minister JV Bainimarama cancelled any such plans “for the foreseeable future”.

He released the following short statement:

It has been deeply moving for me as Prime Minister to witness the way Fijians have rallied around the national flag as our Rugby Sevens team brought home Olympic Gold for Fiji. And I know this sentiment is shared by most Fijians.

While I remain convinced personally that we need to replace some of the flag’s colonial symbols with a genuinely indigenous expression of our present and our future, it has been apparent to the Government since February that the flag should not be changed for the foreseeable future.

It is a question of resetting national priorities as our people continue to recover from Tropical Cyclone Winston. The cost of any flag change is better spent at the present time assisting Fijians back on their feet.

I urge every Fijian to display our flag when our victorious Sevens team returns to Fiji on Sunday and during our special national holiday on Monday. It is a time to celebrate not only their remarkable achievement but our collective unity and national sense of purpose.

Tropical Cyclone Winston, the strongest and costliest storm in Southern Pacific history, hit Fiji last February killing 44 and causing $1.4 billion in damage.

This month Fiji won its first Olympic gold medal ever by beating its former colonial master Great Britain 43 to 7 in Men’s Rugby Sevens. There was dancing in the streets – and much flag waving.

Venezuelan Independence Day

Today in 1811 the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela declared independence and adopted Francisco de Miranda‘s tricolor of yellow, blue, and red.  The flag has undergone many changes in its 105 year history, most recently in 2006 when Hugo Chavez added an eighth star for the province of Guayana and changed the horse in the coat of arms to face left (toward the hoist), but the tricolor — now shared with Colombia and Equador — has prevailed.

This year’s Independence Day comes at a very difficult time of economic and political turmoil for Venezuela.  But the celebrations went on.  Here is a sample of what got posted to Instagram under hashtag #5dejulio.

Multinational Patriotism

You might think that multinational patriotism would involve pledging allegiance to Barclays, but Onjena Yo’s project, the Multinational Patriot Flag & Blog Series, seeks to re-imagine conventional notions of patriotism in more inclusive, multi-national ways.

This series grows from the desire to see American icons used in a way that represents the United States as the melting pot that it is. As several fellow tweeters observed, images of the U.S. flag, bald eagles and the like are often displayed in profiles throughout social media to indicate a specific brand of patriotism. Too often, many of these “patriots” lack an inclusive view of what “American” is. Unfortunately, this restrictive point of view is not limited to social media profiles… As a child, I remember watching my father, who served 20 years in the Air Force, quietly replace our flag each time it was stolen from our porch by our “neighbors.” I listened to my mother who taught us to assimilate for success but not be a “typical American.” To this day, I am still conflicted when expressing my “patriotism.”

In the blog half of her project, Patriot Survey Says!!, Yo has been collecting “stories honoring your personal multinational journeys.” The other half of the project is vexillographically fascinating: the use of circular, roundel-like combinations of national flags. Each consists of an outer ring made up of elements of a national flag, surrounding an inner disk made up of part of, or elements from, a second nation’s flag.  (Yo sells clothing using these proprietary designs on Redbubble.com.)

These circularized “flags” are organized according to the outer, surrounding ring. For example, here is part of the collection of flags with the United States surrounding other North American flags:



In cases where the non-US flag is based on a star, or stars, an alternative scheme of orbiting stars (the “hybrid header”) is offered in addition to the standard scheme (the “swirl header”). For example:

South Korea is a special case. Rather than representing the flag of South Korea surrounded by a swirl of the US, the order is reversed:


In turn, this formed the basis for a set of Korean diaspora flags:southkorea

There are also designs in which the Canadian flag surrounds the other, for example:


Finally, there are designs in which the US flag swirls around non-national flags are symbols:

To purchase merchandise featuring these designs (and many more), visit Onjena Yo’s Carbon-Fibre Media Redbubble store.


Jabzy’s Flag Histories

Jabzy (or @JabzyJoe) hosts a YouTube channel focused on Western history.  In addition to nearly 70 Three Minute Histories of various wars, he has a shorter (in number) and longer (in runtime) series of Flag Histories — four to be precise, of Germany, France, Britain, and Italy.  Using many images from art history, he takes each back to medieval times at around six minutes each.




What Does the ___ Flag Mean?

RealLifeLore is a new YouTube channel presenting a mixture of geopolitics, history, and vexillology.  This includes an entertaining and informative series with titles of the form “What Does the ___ Flag Mean?”

So far, there are installments for the UK, France, and Spain.

We hope more installments will be forthcoming.

In the mean time, here are some other “What Does the ___ Flag Mean?” videos from other YouTube publishers.

Ted Kaye on Flag Stories

Jeppe and Birger Morgenstjerne of the Danish design agency Ferdio recently released an extensive set of beautiful vexillological infographics entitled Flag Stories. These have attracted, deservedly, considerable attention around the web, including that of Linda Poon of The Atlantic‘s Citylab.  In her article What’s in a Flag’s Design? she asked our very own Ted Kaye to help put five of the Morgenstjernes’ analyses of the national flags of UN member states in context:

  1. The three-striped “tribar” layout is the most popular
  2. Red, blue, and white dominate the colors of the world’s flags
  3. Colors have individual meanings, too
  4. The star is the most commonly used symbol on flags
  5. The simpler the flag, the more efficient it is

Check out Linda Poon’s interview with Ted Kaye here:


Canada Rejoins the Club

In a surprise announcement today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced revisions to the Canadian flag “to bring it more in line with international standards”:

It has come to my attention that due to our garish and outdated 1960s-era maple leaf flag, many Canadians and would-be Canadians are not sufficiently appreciative of our glorious colonial past and continuing subjecthood to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  Therefore, inspired by the courageous citizens of New Zealand who last week rejected a blatant attempt to remove the Union Jack of the Motherland from their national flag, I am announcing that as of Her Majesty’s birthday on the 21st of this month, Canada will revise its flag to be more in line with its southern hemisphere brethren.

Keen-eyed vexillologists may note that the new Canadian flag features “inverted” stars. Its designer, Chief Herald of Canada Claire Boudreau, FRHDC AH explains that these reflect Canada’s antipodal relationship to New Zealand and Australia.  When asked about the similarity to the Big Dipper flag of the US state of Alaska, Boudreau said she could neither confirm nor deny a relation to Canada’s plans for 21st century expansion, and instead noted that Alaska’s flag ranked 5th out of 72 US state and Canadian provincial flags evaluated in NAVA’s 2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey and thus was a “proven design”.  Regarding the dramatic shift in overall color, from red to blue, she would only say “for once the Québécois should be happy”.

The club

Note: The eight stars on the new flag refer to the eight Canadian provinces that matter, with the large pole star Polaris corresponding to Ontario, seat of the central government. The Chief Herald explained, “Simplicity is paramount in flag design, and representing all provinces would have required 10 stars or something.  And, let’s face it, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, don’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things — or even in the Canadian scheme of things.”

Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting - Malta - Day 2
Canadian heartthrob Justin Trudeau shakes hands with a British homeopath as Her Majesty looks on.

Videos from ICV26

Kazutaka Nishiura has kindly uploaded to YouTube a number of videos of talks and ceremonies from last year’s 26th International Congress of Vexillology in Sydney, Australia.  You can access the playlist here, or view them below.

Opening ceremony

Edward B. (Ted) Kaye, Fiji’s New Flag: A Work in Progress

Nozomi Kariyasu, The History of Japanese Service Ensigns Used in International Trade Across the Pacific

Xing Fei, Research on the Flagpoles in Front of Chinese Traditional Buildings

Shane Casey (Senior Curator, Military Heraldry and Technology), The Australian War Memorial‘s Flag Collection – a Brief Selection

Australian National Flag Day

Closing Ceremony