Friday, June 11, 2010

Flag Friday IX

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Here's the flag of the DRC that Parsons reviewed:

Parsons: Clarifying that "this is the one [the Congo] whose captial is Kinshasa," Parsons objects to "too many stars" but gives it a "B", 74/100.

Since 2006, though, the DRC has flown a new flag as it tries to overcome the ghastly shadow of nasty dudes like King Leopold of Belgium and Mbuto Sese Seko.

Michael5000: The DRC is another country that has wrestled with its choice of flag as it has wrestled with its incredibly complex internal politics. The six-little-stars-and-one-big-one was a past flag hauled back into service to replace the banner of Mbuto-era "Zaire," which you'll probably remember when you see it:

That flag, which flew from 1971 to 1997, was a good representation for Mbuto's professed program of Africanization and the emergence of a strong and confident large African country. Since that vision was subsequently discredited by the reality of Mbuto's tenure in office, which consisted mostly of his systematically looting the country for the staggering personal enrichment of himself and a handful of toadies, it -- along with the flag and the name "Zaire" -- ended up leaving a bad taste in everybody's mouth.
So, it's understandable that there was a quick reversion to the six-little-stars-and-one-big-one flag. Problem is, that flag was intended to symbolize the union of six provinces, and the country has since been reorganized into ten provinces and a capital district. So in 2006 yet another old flag, the red-star-and-diagonal-slash has been pulled back into service. Now this flag is not entirely without its problems either, as it ultimately traces its history to the brutal Belgian Congo era. My guess is that, as so often happens in the tensely multi-national countries of Africa, it was probably selected as not being representative of any one ethnic group, and therefore being equally offensive -- and therefore equally inoffensive -- to all.

Plus, it looks pretty sharp on a flagpole.

Grade: A-

Republic of the Congo

Parsons:I initially thought that Parsons had overlooked Congo-Brazzaville, but he had, rather saucily it seems to me, filed it under "T" for "The Other Congo." Noting that "This is the one whose capital is not Kinshasa," he gives it a "B", 70/100, without comment.

Michael5000: We have seen vertical and horizontal tricolors, but I believe this may be the first diagonal tricolor we have run into. The diagonal tricolor shares all of the flaggy advantages of the other tricolors, being highly simple and easily to construct as well as easy to recognize at any distance. It does introduce an additional complexity -- how will the diagonal stripe fit into the corners -- but I think the Congolese picked the right solution here for a banner of normal dimensions, keeping the central stripe off of the sides.

Having said all that, I have to confess to a mild personal preference for the horizontal and vertical versions of the tricolor. But, it's also important to recognize that countries that came to the flag-design table later in the game had to do something to distinguish their symbols from existing European models, and this wasn't a bad way to do it. Too, the colors that Congo-Brazzaville is rocking at the moment are certainly better than those in place from 1970 to 1991, which were in my estimation rather... didactic.

Grade (for the current flag): B+

Costa Rica

Parsons:Complaining that it is "too busy," he assigns a "C", 55/100.

Michael5000: "Too busy"? Five horizontal stripes of red, white, and blue? Let's assume that was a clerical error. The only problem with the flag of Costa Rica, which is admirably simple, distinctive, and attractive in a businesslike sort of way, is that it is quite similar to the flag of Thailand. But, Costa Rica's flag has eleven years of seniority over Thailand's, so there.

Grade: A-


Parsons:Complaining that it, too, is "too busy," he again assigns a "C", 55/100.

Michael5000: OK, yes, here we have too much busy-ness. The checkerboard shield is a bit Ralston-Purina, and the fussy symbols-in-a-crown detail is much too fine-grained to make sense on a flag. Having said this, it's also true that the Croatian flag stands out pretty well and is not hard to pick out of the 200-country lineup.

Grade: B-


The Calico Cat said...

Ralston-Purina - you make me laugh. (Didn't Ralaston go the way of Roebuck?)

Jennifer said...

I'm a fan of the new DRC flag too, especially with the lighter blue shown in the picture of the flag on the flagpole.

I know you've talked about proportions before, but the proportions of the Croatian flag--wow! Maybe partially because of the horizontal stripes, its 1:2 looks really long to me.

(And yes, Ralston-Purina--hee hee!)

chuckdaddy said...

The diagonal, good touch- like it

Costa Rica- boring, I agree with Parson's "C"

Someone should make a flag that has the 2 possible images you can see. You know, like the old woman/young woman one. Or maybe flag that if you stare at it long enough a 3d image comes out