Oct 23, 2012

Sardinia (Italy)

In my other blog about flags, I posted a proposal to a new Aragon flag. Studying the possibilities, I found the Sardinia flag. It's below:

There's two answers to the origin of this flag. The Spanish tradition says it was first flown after the victory in the Battle of Alcoraz (1096), between Aragonese and the Moors (here's the association with Aragon). The St. George's cross was used because the saint appeared to help Aragonese army, and the four Moor heads represented the defeated enemies. According to Sardinian tradition, the flag is older (from 1017), attributed by the pope to the Pisans in order to help Sardinian against the Sarracens.

Why am I talking about this specific flag? Because it remembered me about the legendary origin of the use of flags. Whitney Smith, in his famous book "Flags Through the Ages and Across the Time", stated that probably the first "vexilloid" (something like a "proto-flag") possibly was made with a blooded cloth was put on the top of a spear to scare the enemy.

In truth, the oldest flags generally have origin as a cloth to be carried on battles and wars, or else as made by enemies' blood. The Austrian flag and senyera (used in Catalan countries) were on second category. The Danish flag was "received from God" during a battle. Other example ais the blutfahne or blutbanner ("blood flag"), a solid red flag used in Holy Roman Empire by the feudal lords and made with blood of men sentenced by the Blutgericht ("Blood Court"). All of them were created before 13th century.

In the Middle Ages, it could make sense, but killing people to create flag is a unacceptable practice by current moral, fortunately. And some people see the Moor head (also used in Corsican flag) as racist manifestations. And today I presented something like "the secret story of the flags". I hope you liked!

Your comment is very important: it's your way to praise, criticize, suggest or express your opinion. Please, leave your comment.

Oct 16, 2012

Element of flags: color palettes

When you're talking about flag, "coincidences" sometimes aren't what they look like. Many times a flag is intentionally similar to another, when the first taking the second as inspiration. An example easy to notice and study are the color combinations. Some flags are very influential, in the sense that's took as base to many newer flags. Here you can see some of them, grouped by the inspiration.

Pan-African colors

There's two palettes of colors known as pan-African colors: one is composed by red, yellow and green, while the other contains red, black and green.

The first set of color (green, yellow and red) is inspired by the flag of Ethiopian Empire.

This three colors have been specially used in Ethiopia since about 17th century, but the flag was only adopted in 1897. The meaning of the colors is disputed, but generally it's said that red is for the blood spilled in defense of Ethiopia , yellow is for the peace and harmony between Ethiopian ethnic and religious groups, and green for hope or land's fertility. The insignia in the middle of the flag is the Lion of Judah, used because the Ethiopian Dynasty claimed to have ancestry from King Solomon and Queen of Sheba, being named Solomonic Dynasty.

As Ethiopia, with exception of a brief period of Italian rule, resisted strongly to European colonization, many countries adopted this colors when gained independence from European countries, as symbol of sovereignty. They are also much used by the Rastafari Movement.

Other set of colors also known as "Pan-African colors" are composed by red, black and green, derived from UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) flag.

The UNIA was founded by Afro-American activist Marcus Garvey, in 1920. It's commonly said that red stands for African blood, black for the African people and green for continent's fertility. It was adopted as an   unofficial "Afro-American" flag and many African countries inspired in it to create their own flags.

Countries in Americas with great African-descendant population, e.g. St. Kitts and Nevis and Grenada, also adopted pan-African colors. See a small flag chart with some African countries with pan-African colors in their flag history:

[Click on images to zoom]

Pan-Slavic colors

Other great flags family is from pan-Slavic. They use the colors red, white and blue. It's important to notice that not all flags with these colors has pan-Slavic inspiration (like France, USA and UK). They are inspired by the flag approved by Pan-Slav Congress of 1848 (occurred in Prague). The colors, associated with freedom and revolution (e.g. French flag) and the same of Russian flag, were chose in a great number of Slavic countries. See the pan-Slavic flag and a flag chart with flags inspired by it.

Pan-Arab colors

Here's a challenge: can you say right now, without assistance, the differences between Kuwait and Jordan flags? You probably don't; if you can, congratulations, because flags of some Arab countries are very hard to be distinguished by non-Arabs. The reason is simple: they all have the same matrix, in this case the flag used during the Arab Revolt (1916-1918). Look at the flag:

The Arab revolt was an attempt to create an unified Arab country under territories of Ottoman Empire (ruled by ethnic Turks). The flag used during the revolt, considered Arab nationalist, was immediately adopted as symbol of Arab identity. See a set of recognized and unrecognized countries that adopt this colors:

It's important to notice that non-Arab Muslim countries, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, don't adopt this colors.

Pan-Iranian colors

Many flags are commonly thought to represent the pan-Arab colors, but actually represents the pan-Iranian colors, used by Persian people, majority in Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. They're based in Persian flag (nowadays Iran); this one is from before 1906 (date unknown).

The small flag chart below show some flags using pan-Iranian colors:

Colors of Federal Republic of Central America

The Federal Republic of Central America (1823-1838) was a good attempt to hold together previous Spanish colonies in Central America, but the union disbanded, although until today they have friendship relationships and there were other attempts of reunification, e.g. the Greater Republic of Central America (1896-1898). See the flag of the Federal Republic:

The color of these flags are blue and white (Costa Rica added the red).

Colors of Gran Colombia

Finally, the last color-based flag family. In a similar case to Central America, the ex-constituent countries of Gran Colombia (officially Republic of Colombia; 1819-1831) adopted the colors of these countries. The unification ideology, influenced by the ideas of liberator Simón Bolívar, is having some voice last years. Gran Colombia used many flags, being the flag below the first and most famous of them:

The colors that defines this family are yellow, blue and red. Bolivia changed the blue by the green. See the flags of this family:


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Oct 9, 2012

European Union v. USA and Brazil

Brazilian and American flags have a great problem in common: the number of stars. This post will talk about this issue, and how European Union took the right decision to avoid the problem.

The Brazilian flag is, by far, one of more easily distinguishable: the yellow rhombus on green field is pretty unique between the national flags. The biggest problems with it is the writing, that may ever be avoided in a flag, and a extremely complex set of 27 stars, organized between the most seem constellations in Southern Hemisphere. The number of stars reflects the 26 states and the Federal District. When the flag was first designed, in 1889, the number of stars was 21, as was the number of federated states (counting the Federal District). Since then, the flag have the number of stars changed three times. The stars and the motto makes the flag very complicated to be correctly made.

Now, we'll talk about other extreme case: the flag of United States of America (it's important to note that the first Brazilian Republican flag was inspired in this one):

The national American have is composed of thirteen horizontal stripes (seven are red and six are white) and a  blue canton with fifty stars, representing the fifty American states (the District of Columbia isn't in account). Since the design with stars were firstly adopted, in 1776, the number of stars were officially changed 26 times — the flag has been changed in an average interval of nine years! Positively fifty is a great number to any element of a flag. Compare with the famous "Betsy Ross flag", with only thirteen stars:

Wouldn't be easier if the number of stars were fixed since then? Or if this design returns? Aesthetically, yes, but probably many people would disagree. This kind of solution was adopted by European Union flag, originally adopted by Council of Europe, in 1955.

The flag consists in a blue field, inspired by the flag of Paneuropean Union (see its flag now and then), and twelve golden stars in a golden arrangement. These elements sometimes remembers the way Virgin Mary is depicted in Book of Revelations (see example), but it's hard to know if it was a real inspiration. The first proposal had fifteen stars, because then this was the number of member states of Council of Europe, but one of the members, the Saar Protectorate, was a disputed area, and West Germany objected the start for Saar. So they fixed the number of stars in twelve, because the number symbolizes perfection and has no special political connotation.

What's your opinion about the flags presented there, or the post content? Your comment is welcome!

Oct 2, 2012

Arica y Parinacota (Chile)

Some weeks ago I read a news that gave an idea to a new post on this blog: Microsoft, one of biggest enterprises in the world, changed its logo. Look at the new logo:

You may be thinking: OK, but what this have to do with flags? I can better answer you with a flag: the one of Arica and Parinacota Region, in Chile.

It seems like Microsoft copied Arica and Parinacota logo or, more probably, the creators of the flag predicted some design trends. The two are recent: the province was only created in 2007.

This example shows perfectly that a flag can be a design piece. Unfortunately, this also shows that flag-making rules aren't necessarily identical to design rules. For example, writing is something that somebody with vexillologic knowledge would avoid.

In other hand, this model can be used as problem without major problems: some elements of the place are shown (llamas, a colonial building, a beach and mountains). It's distinguishable and can be used in many occasions (see the regional Manual of Graphic Norms). At least, still this design become old-fashioned: see the flag of Newfoundland and Labrador and you'll know better the problem — being sincere, probably Labrador and Newfoundland flag never looked good.

Thank you for reading. Every comment is welcome.