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French Polynesia

Polynésie Française - Porinetia Farani - Tahiti Nui

Last modified: 2006-01-14 by ivan sache
Keywords: oceania | polynesie francaise | french polynesia | porinetia farani | tahiti nui | france | canoe | waves (blue) | sun: 10 rays (yellow) | outrigger | construction sheet | error | tree (blue and yellow) |
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[Flag of France] [Flag of French Polynesia]
Flag of France - Image by Željko Heimer Flag of French Polynesia - Image by Juan Manuel Gabino

See also:

Presentation of French Polynesia

French Polynesia (245,405 inhabitants in 2002) is an "overseas country within the French Republic" (Pays d'Outre-Mer au sein de la République), according to the most recent organic law 2004-192 of 27 February 2004 on the autonomy status of French Polynesia (loi organique nº 2004-192 du 27 février 2004 portant statut d'autonomie de la Polynésie française). The complete text of the organic law (in French) is available on the Legifrance website.

The new status supersedes the previous autonomy status granted by law of 6 September 1984 and confirmed by organic law of 12 April 1996. The new organic law required the amendment of Article 14 of the Constitution of the French Republic, voted on 24 January 2000 by the Congress (Deputees + Senators).

The main change is that the Assembly of French Polynesia now adopts "country laws" (lois de pays in the most important areas, and not just "resolutions", or administrative acts. Unlike overseas territories that can only benefit from a principle of "free administration of territorial communities", the Overseas Countries make use of the principle of "free government", better known as "self-government" in English judicial systems.

Article 1 of Title 1 (On Autonomy) of the new organic law says (my translation):

French Polynesia is made of Winward Islands, Leeward Islands, Tuamotu Islands, Gambier Islands, Marquesas Islands and Austral Islands, as well as of the adjacent maritime areas.

Overseas country within the Republic, French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity whose autonomy is guaranteed by Article 74 of the Constitution [of the French Republic].

French Polynesia shall be democratically self-governed by its elective representatives and by local referendum, in the conditions prescribed by the present organic law.


French Polynesia shall freely determines the distinctive emblems showing its personality in the official public manifestations beside the national emblem and the symbols of the Republic.[...]

Source: Website of the Presidency of French Polynesia

Administratively, French Polynesia is divided since 1972 (decree 72-408 of 17 May 1972, published in Journal Officiel on 20 May 1972) in five archipelagos (archipels):

  • Austral Archipelago (Îles Australes; 6,386 inhabitants in 1996), often called Tubuai Islands, including Tubuai, Raivavae, Rimatara and Rurutu. Rapa, totally isolated in the south-east (and maybe the most isolated French possession with permanent population) is administratively attached to the Austral Islands.
  • Marquesas Islands (Îles Marquises; 8,712 inhabitants in 1996; 997 sq. km).
  • Tuamotu and Gambier Islands (Îles Tuamotu et Gambier; 15,262 inhabitants in 1996). Tuamotu include 84 islands, islets and atolls, about 40 of them being inhabited (main are Anaa, Aratika, Arutua, Fakahina, Fakarava, Hao, Napuka, Pukapuka, Rangiroa, Raroia, Takapoto, Takaroa, Tatakoto). Gambier include Mangareva and several atolls (main are Fangataufa and Moruroa).
  • Leeward Islands (Îles Sous-le-Vent; 30,221 inhabitants in 1996), including islands (Raiatea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Maupiti, Tahaa) and atolls (Motu One, Maupihaa, Manuae, Tupai).
  • Winward Islands (Îles du Vent; 184,224 inhabitants in 1996), including Tahiti and Moorea, as well as the three islets of Maiao, Mehetia and Tetiaroa.

Leeward and Windward Islands together are also known as the Society Islands (Îles de la Société).

The desert island of Clipperton, located c. 1,000 km south-west of Mexico, is administratively part of French Polynesia since 1936 (decree of 12 June 1936, published in Journal Officiel on 16 June 1936).

Source: Encyclopaedia Universalis, Yearbook Les chiffres du monde, 1998.

Ivan Sache, 17 August 2005

French Polynesia is the official name of the country. Since Tahiti is the main island (60% of the country's population), the former (pre-French colonial) dominant family was Tahitian (even if the former main island was Moorea) and locals do not like the epithet French for their country; they seem confortable in adopting the name Tahiti et ses Îles (Tahiti and Her Islands). This name is widespread in every place where no official name is necessary. It seems to be simultaneously nice for the locals and acceptable for the people of the other archipelagos. If independence was eventually reached the country could be called Fanua. This is the word for mainland or "our country" in the local Polynesian language.

Gunter Zibell, 22 January 2001

Flag of French Polynesia: Description

[Construction sheet]

Construction sheet for the flag of French Polynesia - Image by Željko Heimer

Quoting the website of the Presidency of French Polynesia:

A symbol of freedom, recognition and rallying all the people of French Polynesia, the flag sets the Territory's identity at all official gatherings and events, both locally and internationally.
The Assembly reporters who presented a resolution project on 20 November 1984, explaining the choice of design for the Tahitian flag declared:
"For Tahiti & Her Islands this flag symbolizes, once and for all and for the future generations, the spirit of Freedom, Responsibility and Initiative of people facing the future and attached to its Dignity and Fulfillment, through its traditional values."

Flag characteristics

The flag of French Polynesia is rectangular, measuring 1 meter (3.28 ft.) by 1.5 meters (4.9 ft.). It has three [horizontal] stripes of colors red, white and red. The white central stripe is twice as wide as the two red stripse. The center of the flag presents the symbol of French Polynesia, a white circle 43 centimeters (16.9 inches) in diameter that is filled with a Polynesian canoe with red sails. The canoe and sails are outlined in brown, as are two figurines atop each of the two prows and five designs on the platform between the two canoe hulls. Those designs represent the five archipelagos of French Polynesia. The canoe is set against a sun depicted by 10 golden rays, which represent life. The canoe sits in a sky blue sea depicted by five rows of waves, the ocean representing abundance.

Ivan Sache, 17 August 2005

The flag is derived from the former Tahitian flag of the Pomare family, who ruled some islands last century.

Gunter Zibell, 22 January 2001

Flag of French Polynesia: Status

The flag of French Polynesia shall always be flown with the French national flag, according to article 1 of organic law 96-312, dated 12 April 1996, on the autonomy status of French Polynesia.

The new autonomy status of French Polynesia kept this prescription (see above).

Armand du Payrat & Ivan Sache, 17 August 2005

Quoting the website of the Presidency of French Polynesia:

The flag is permanently on display in front of institutional buildings (Presidency, Assembly, Economic, Social and Cultural Council) as well as government buildings and monuments during official ceremonies. The flag is raised at the Presidency during Council of Ministers meetings held each Wednesday.

The Territorial Government decree of 4 December 1985 governing the display of the flag stipulates that the flags of the archipelagos and islands of French Polynesia may be flown next to the Territorial and National flags.

Ivan Sache, 23 February 2001

Coat of arms of French Polynesia

[Coat of arms]

Coat of arms of French Polynesia - Image by Juan Manuel Gabino

Quoting the website of the Presidency of French Polynesia:

On 23 November 1984, the Assembly of French Polynesia officially adopted the Polynesian sailing canoe, as the Territory's symbol of essential values for the people of Tahiti & Her Islands. This second symbol, the coat of arms, testifies the Territory's attachment to ancestral values and serves as a guide, for the present and the future.
The Assembly meeting that adopted the resolution on the coat of arms referred to traditional values by noting that the canoe "is an indispensable tool of subsistence for fishing", but it is also "the imperative means of transportation and communication between the islands".
The canoe is still a symbol of a past when it was "a ceremonial and conquest vessel" during the sacred period of kings and great chiefs, and played a major role in the long migrations and the life of Polynesians, the people of the sea.
Today, the Polynesian society is often compared to this canoe: the democratic emblem translates the choice of a social organization, based on the virtues of courage, self-sacrifice and solidarity. The coat of arms is part of French Polynesia's flag and seal.

Ivan Sache, 17 August 2005

Mistaken flag of French Polynesia

[French Polynesia, mistaken flag]

Mistaken flag of French Polynesia - Image by Santiago Dotor, after Corel Draw 8 clip art

A French reversed flag (vertically divided red-white-blue) with a tree emblem in the white stripe is shown in several sources as the flag of "Polynesia" or "French Polynesia":

  • Spanish Encyclopaedia on CD-ROM (contributed by Jaume Olleacute, 8 August 1999)
  • Website of the 5th South Pacific Mini-Games (contributed by Jostein Nygård, 16 June 1999)
  • Corel Draw clip art; the flag still appeared in Corel Draw 8 release, as "oldfchp.cdr"; still there is no new "fchp.cdr"! The ratio of the flag also seems strange, ca. 4:7 (contributed by Santiago Dotor, 15 October 1999)

Ivan Sache, 17 August 2005

It looks like something similar to an erroneous flag I saw for French Polynesia. It was the French flag (with proper blue-white-red stripe) with what looks like a tree with two trunks in the middle. This flag looks like the personal flag of President François Mitterrand.

David Kendall, 2 August 1999