The Flag of Vanuatu

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):

Before Preservation


Before preservation 1

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:

flag2The National Flag of Vanuatu

Now that is pretty cool. Makes me wonder how other flags throughout the Pacific Islands nations were conceived.

About islandculturearchivalsupport

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of records pertaining to the cultural identity of island peoples in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia whose national and public archives, libraries, cultural centers, and business organizations are underprivileged, underfunded, and understaffed. The specific purpose for which this nonprofit corporation was formed is to support the needs of these South Pacific cultural heritage institutions by helping to preserve and make accessible records created for business, accountability or cultural purposes. The organization will endeavor to add value by providing resources or volunteers to advise, train, and work among island residents to support their efforts in building their future and preserving their collective memory through the use of modern archival techniques.
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