I recently came across an article about how one of the last British flags was lowered from the British High Commissioner’s residence on Iririki Island in the New Hebrides on July 29th 1980. Then, shortly after midnight the country would become the new independent Republic of Vanuatu, and at midday on July 30th the new republic’s flag was to be hoisted at Independence Park in Port Vila as well as other flag raising centers throughout the country.
The article went on to talk about how the flag from Iririki Island was saved, made its journey back to England, and resurfaced at an auction which was won by a Taiwanese collector… oh, the stories this flag could tell.
Okay. Perhaps, this isn’t the most riveting of articles, and, sadly, I don’t have a picture of this flag- although I suspect that it looks like your classic Union Jack. Nevertheless, feel free to read the short article.
However, the above story does come at a perfect time. During our project at the Vanuatu National Archives this past April, we came across a small collection of hand drawn flags that needed preservation. These caught my attention instantly. I quickly asked about this collection, and learned that it was a contest for school children during the late 1970’s to draw the flag and to describe what each color symbolizes. The new national flag would be born from this contest.
Fascinating! I think we spent over an hour looking at each drawing. As you can imagine some of the drawings were poignant, some hilarious, and some very artistic. All of them were full of national pride and passion. In fact, here are a couple examples that I would like to share with you (photos courtesy of Augustine Tevimule):
Interestingly, many of the students used the same colors for their flags much like the second picture above. Green symbolized land; red symbolized blood; black symbolized the Melanesian people; and yellow symbolized religion (about 80% of the people of Vanuatu profess Christianity).
Unfortunately, the winning picture is not kept in the Archives. However, it was amazing to see how many pictures were very similar, especially with color, to the flag that is used today:
Now that is pretty cool. Makes me wonder how other flags throughout the Pacific Islands nations were conceived.