Friday, September 3, 2010

Flag Friday XIII

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.


Parsons: Calling it "too busy", he gives it a "C", 55/100.

Michael5000: OK, here's another African flag in green, yellow, and red. But wait! This is the original green, yellow, and red African flag. Ethiopia was the African country that endured European colonialism the least and for the shortest period, and was the first African country to join the big happy family of modern states. It was a bit of a beacon to other independence-minded Africans, and the colors of Ethiopia's flag thus became the symbolic colors of pan-Africanism, idealistically incorporated into the flags of many other countries as they became independent.

Back in the day of Emporer Haile Sallasie, the center figure was a lion of Judah clutching a flag of Ethiopia. This was kind of badass, but a bit fussy. After that, the flag was officially just a tricolor until 1996, and apparently the blank tricolor is still in pretty common use. The official version has the blue circle with the shining star, though. I'm sure this is an idiosyncratic response, but the star always reminds me of one of those "move four of these matchsticks to make a correct mathematical formula" puzzles. I don't love it.

Grade: B


Parsons: Also "too busy," but also burdened by "graven images" and "colonial nonsense." "Features a picture of a lion rolling a cigarette (cf. Sri Lanka)" He gives it a "D", 40/100.

Michael5000: You know, I too find it too busy and burdened by graven images and colonial nonsense. It also strikes me that sky-blue is a problematic color for a flag, which is often seen against, well, the sky. Photographic evidence supports my point.

The Fijian oceangoing contingent seems to have noticed this problem too, coming up with a naval jack that can actually be seen against sea and sky.

But I digress. There has been a little bit of debate about the Fijian flag, but interestingly it has not been about getting rid of the colonial business. Instead, there is a faction that wishes to make the national seal yet more fussy. As an outsider, I'd have to say that seems like a step in the wrong direction.

Grade: D


Parsons:Praising its "good colours" and praising (I assume) it as "simple," he assigns a "B+", 76/100.

Michael5000: That is one classic freaking flag. It looks about five centuries old to me. Actually, it's a 1910s design with roots going back only a few decades earlier. But it's awesome -- it totally says "Finland."

Grade: A

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Parsons wrote his flag reviews towards the end of a narrow window of time where, due to rather finicky geopolitical concerns (the Greek government, from an outsider's perspective, being just plum silly), it made sense to call the new country of Macedonia by this absurdly abstruse moniker. That seems to have more or less settled down, so we'll deal with Macedonia under "M."


Parsons: Without comment, Parsons gives the flag of France a B, 70/100.

Michael5000: The flag of France is both one of the most recognized flags in the world and the most simple. If you were going to make a cartoon of a flag, you would probably make a red, white, and blue tricolor. The flag of France is not just the flag of France, it's the flag of flags. It's not as old as you might expect, though, going back only to the Revolution.

I can see why Parsons didn't have much to say about it, though. It is so simple and so ubiquitous as to kind of defy comment.

Grade: A-


Aviatrix said...

Recommend me a book on the history of flags. I like this stuff and want to be able to consult it on my coffee table after the apocalypse.

Michael5000 said...

Just print out all the Flag Fridays and put them in a binder. They are pretty much the last word on flags.