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Repoblikan'i Madagasikara

Last modified: 2006-01-07 by bruce berry
Keywords: madagascar | malagasy |
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 [Variant] 2:3~ image by Antonio Martins 24 April 1999

See also:

Origin of the flag

National Flag. CSW/CSW 2:3
Tricolor consisting of white field by hoist and two horizontal fields of red over green in the fly. Each of the fields is of the same area, i.e. each has ratio 1:2, with overall proportion 2:3.
Željko Heimer, 21 May 2002

There are two references, which do not agree with each other, refer to this flag:

1. Smith (1975) [smi75a]:
"Many Malagasy are descended from settlers who originally came from South-East Asia, suggesting that its red and white flags (see Indonesia) influenced similar red and white flags flown by the Hova empire in 19th century Madagascar. Those Hova flags were the basis for the tricolor adopted shortly after Madagascar became the Malagasy Republic. Green was added for the coastal people.
Historically, red is associated with the Volamena and the white with the Volafotsi, princely families founded by King Andriandahifotsi (1610-1685). His personal emblem was a red bull and the name of the kingdom was Menabe, "Great Red".

2. DK Ultimate Pocket Book of Flags (1997) [udk97]:
"The red and white are said to symbolize the earlier Merina Kingdom, whose flags were all red and white, with the addition of the green for the Hova, the former peasant class."

Both sources agree on the red and the white, but there is discrepancy about the origin of the green. Encyclopaedia Universalis (CD-ROM edition, 1998) solves it, the DK Ultimate Pocket version being the correct one. The history of Madagascar is very complex and I just extract details significant for the green colour case.
Smith was certainly fooled by sources dating from the French colonial period (1885-1960). At that time, Merina and Hova were used as synonyms. In fact, the Merina Kingdom (founded in 1787 by unifying several small princely states of the island), had a very strict social hierarchy, based on three main classes: the "andriana" (nobility), the "hova" (free commoners, mostly peasants), and the "andevo" (black slaves). From time to time, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom had been of Hova origin, and the Hova class was the source of quasi-permanent anti-French agitation.  There had never been any Hova Kingdom or "Hova Empire" as reported by Smith. I do not know how the "coastal peoples" he mentioned were ranked in the Merina system (they usually belong to different ethnic groups and still tend to live in autarky, and I imagine they were of very low rank, if any), but the green strip cannot be attributed to them (or it was a later "reattribution" for political reasons). The Menabe kingdom mentioned by Smith was a powerful state which could unify for several years the small kingdoms in permanent state of war with each other.
Ivan Sache, 28 Jun 1999

Madagascar flag colors according to Album 2000 [pay00]:
"Official" Pantone and "approx." CMYK
R: Warm Red c / 0-80-90-0
G: 348c / 100-0-80-25
Santiago Dotor, 9 Feb 2001

Some time after the 24-Dec-1959, when the "coat of arms" was adopted, the new flag was devised (that may easily be only in 1960 as suggested on FOTW), containing in the middle of the white stripes the golden emblem, above it initials R.M. (for Repoblika Malgasy/Repoublique Malagashe in Malagashe and French).
Željko Heimer, 28 Jun 1999

For further historical background, go to mg-bg (Ed).