The Vanuatu Flag: An Emblem of Unity, Tradition, and Prosperity
The South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is a picturesque archipelago of 83 islands, situated east of Australia and north of New Zealand. Despite its vast geographical spread, it is home to just around 300,000 people. In this article, we delve into the history, meaning, and symbolism of the flag of Vanuatu, a country that achieved independence in 1980 and is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Pacific Islands Forum.
The Birth of the Flag of Vanuatu
The current national flag of Vanuatu was first hoisted on July 30, 1980, marking the country’s liberation from the joint colonial rule of the United Kingdom and France. The flag’s design was selected through a competition organised by the Vanuatu Cultural Centre. The winning entry, chosen from over 200 submissions, was the creation of a local student, Kalontas Malon.
Malon’s design features two equal horizontal bands of red and green, with a black isosceles triangle, reminiscent of the letter “V”, in the centre. Inside this triangle, a yellow boar’s tusk encircles two crossed namele fern fronds, symbols of peace and prosperity in Vanuatu.
A Flag Reflecting the Spirit of Vanuatu
When the contest for a new national flag design was announced, Kalontas Malon envisaged a concept that embodied the essence of the island nation. His inspiration was drawn from the islands that form Vanuatu, leading to a design that encapsulates the island, its indigenous people, and the country’s future prospects.
The design has seen very few alterations since its inception in 1980.
The Symbolism of the Flag
The flag of Vanuatu comprises green, red, and black horizontal bands with yellow fimbriations. The green represents the lushness of the islands, the red symbolises the blood that unites all humans, and the black signifies the ni-Vanuatu people.
The addition of yellow and black fimbriations was made by the Prime Minister of Vanuatu to emphasise the black colour. The yellow Y-shape symbolises the geographical layout of the country and the spread of the gospel through the islands.
The emblem in the black band is a boar’s tusk, signifying customs, tradition, and prosperity. The two leaves of the local namele tree stand for peace, with their 39 leaflets representing the original members of the Parliament of Vanuatu.
The Journey of Vanuatu’s Flag
Before 1980, while under the joint rule of France and the UK, Vanuatu (then known as New Hebrides) had no official flag of its own. Both colonial powers flew their own flags over the islands.
A flag consisting of blue-yellow-white vertical stripes with a central emblem was displayed by a team from New Hebrides during the first South Pacific Games in 1963. Various political parties also developed their own flags using the traditional Melanesian colours – red, black, and green. However, it wasn’t until the country’s independence in 1980 that the first official flag was adopted.
Interesting Facts about the Flag of Vanuatu
- Even though the flag of Vanuatu is less than 50 years old, it carries a rich history and symbolism for the people of this island nation. Here are some intriguing facts:
- The unique Y-shape on the flag represents how the islands appear on a map.
- When designing the flag, Kalontas Malon included the boar’s horn to reflect the traditions and customs of the island’s natives.
- The flag is sometimes called the “Yumi flag”, with “Yumi” meaning “you and me” in Bislama, the official language of Vanuatu.
The flag of Vanuatu is a vibrant representation of the country’s unity, tradition, and aspirations for prosperity. Its design and symbolism pay tribute to the rich cultural heritage and the resilient spirit of the people of this Pacific archipelago.