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Republic of Vanuatu, République de Vanuatu, Ripablik blong Vanuatu, formerly New Hebrides

Last modified: 2006-06-09 by ian macdonald
Keywords: vanuatu | new hebrides | nouvelles-hébrides | fern | leaves | boar’s tusk | francophonie |
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[Vanuatu] 19:36 image by Željko Heimer, 17 August 2003
Flag adopted 18th February 1980, coat-of-arms adopted 30th July 1980

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At the British Columbia 1994 Commonwealth Games page I read:

"crossed leaves of the namele fern (peace) are within a boar's tusk (wealth and prosperity) on a black triangular field along the hoist; red and green are the other colours"
The boar's tusk is a symbol of prosperity because (1) pigs are wealth (2) in the latter stages of getting the tusk to grow in a spiral the pig has to be hand fed, and you need status and wealth to have both the pig feeder and the food which are necessary.
Stuart Park, 4 March 1996

The boar's tusk is apparently used as a pendant by the islanders. They remove the boar's upper tusks, which causes the lower tusks to grow in a circle (from National Geographic, December 1970).
Nathan Augustine, 4 March 1996

"After the anglophone Vanuaaku Party led the country to independence as Vanuatu in 1980, the colours of the party flag - red, green, black and yellow - were adopted as the basis for the design of a new national flag. The final design was chosen a few months before independence by a parliamentary committee from designs submitted by local artists."
Symbolism of the colours
"The yellow symbolizes sunshine [peace and enlightenment brought by Christianity, fide Talocci]; the green the richness of the islands [all the islands of the archipelago, fide Talocci]. The red is symbolic of blood [blood of sacrificed boars, power of traditions, and men's blood, fide Talocci], and the black is for the Melanesian people [not explained by Talocci]. The Prime Minister requested the inclusion of yellow and black fimbriations to give more prominence to the colour representing the people. The yellow Y-shape denotes the pattern of the islands in the Pacific Ocean." Approximate specifications are (Album des Pavillons 1990):
  • Red: Pantone 186c ; C0 - M90 - Y80 - K5
  • Yellow: Pantone 116c ; C0 - M10 - Y95 - K0
  • Green: Pantone 347c ; C100 - M0 - Y80 - K10
"A boar's tusk - the symbol of prosperity worn as a pendant on the islands - crossed by two leaves of the local fern "namele". The leaves are a token of peace, and their 39 fronds represent the 39 members of Vanuatu's legislative assembly." [This description is botanically incorrect, ferns do not have leaves but fronds, therefore it should be: "the fronds are a token of peace, and their 39 divisions represent the 39 members of Vanuatu's legislative assembly."]
Dorling Kindersley 1997 says 11:18, and Album des Pavillons 1990 3:5, that is 0.6111.... vs. 0.6.
Sources: Dorling Kindersley 1997 and Talocci 1993.

Ivan Sache, 16 July 1999

What is namele? A fern or a palm? It's certainly not the palm species Phoenix sylvestris identified by Znamierowski (1999), as this is the Asian variant of the date palm, which does not grow in Vanuatu. On the other hand, the fact that some do identify the namele as "fern" (Crampton 1991) and some as "palm" (Herzog & Hannes 1990, Hesmer 1992)does give the impression, it might be a "palm fern". Indeed there is a plant group that is referred by this name, the Cycadales, a group of gymnosperm plants (like coniferous trees) "frequently confused with and mistaken for palms or ferns".

If you google for namele pictures, you find for instance where namele is clearly identified as a cycad. At the Australian "Cycad Pages" one can find two species that occur in the south-west Pacific, namely Cycas seemannii and Cycas bougainvilleana. C. seemannii is found in Vanuatu (obviously the only cycad there). A local name mentioned for Eromanga island (part of Vanuatu) is "No-moll", which looks close to "namele". So I suggest as identification of the plant leaves in the Vanuatu flag and arms: Cycas seemannii
Marcus E.V. Schm÷ger, 6 September 2005

Symbolism of the colours:

  • Yellow: Christianity
  • Red: The blood of the sacrificial pigs, the strength of tradition and the unity of peoples
  • Green: The islands
Source: Talocci 1994.
Marcus Wendel
, 5 September 1999

Designer of flag

The Vanuatu A-Z Visitors Guide says:
"A competition was held and won by Kalontas Mahlon from Emau Island (Kalantos works in Vila Handprints)."
Source:, entry Flag.
Emau Island is a tiny island located east off Efate, the island on which Port-Vila, the capital city of Vanuatu, is located. Note that the former district of Efat was called Efate and other minor islands.
Ivan Sache, 30 April 2003

On is written (in Russian), that the author of the flag and of the coat of arms of Vanuatu is artist Mr. Nikolay Mishutushkin, the son of Ataman of the Terek Cossack Army, who emigrated to the New Hebrides after the Civil War in Russia. Is there any validity to this?
Mikhail Revnivtsev, 21 December 2005

Construction sheet

[Vanuatu] 19:36   image by Željko Heimer, 17 August 2003

National Flag. CSW/CS- 19:36 (39+6+5+6+39):(84+96)
Red over green bicolour with black triangle at hoist containing a yellow border that is fimbriated black and extends in horizontal line towards fly, the triangle contains yellow boar husk and two fern leaves within.
Željko Heimer, 17 August 2003

The flag pictured in the official annex of the law shows the flag with proportion 3:5 but according to the document issued by the premier's bureau concerning the dimensions of the flag, the official proportion is 19:36 (180:95). The length of the triangle must be 84 (using a flag length of 180), the yellow is 5 and fimbriations 6 each. The upper and lower parts have heights of 39 units.
 Jaume OllÚ, 14 August 2003

Several sources give 11:18 for dimensions - the reason is not quite clear to me, one possibility is it a mathematical error that has been repeated. A good rhetorical question is why did they choose these odd numbers? What was wrong with pure and simple 3:5, or even 10:19? The manufacturers will surely ignore the fact and produce whatever they like most - 1:2, 2:3, 3:5, and the government will hardly be able to follow its own regulation (except if they decide to buy flags by order that would make them much more expensive).
Željko Heimer, 15 August 2003

Detail of tusk and fern leaves

[Vanuatu - detail of emblem] image by Željko Heimer, 17 August 2003

My construction shows 39 pairs of needles on each leaf - all the drawings that I have seen, official or otherwise, have different representations of the leaves but usually they are too small to be certain about any level of details. The needles are sometimes even drawn as little leaves, something that certainly is not supposed to be, but on a small blurred image even in the official publication this may not matter.
Željko Heimer, 15 August 2003

Flag of Convenience

Alvin Helms asked, "Why would the flag of Vanuatu (a Pacific island chain) be flying at Port Canaveral (a United States city, on the Atlantic ocean)?" Vanuatu is one of the top ten flags of convenience if I remember correctly. I got this information from one of Britain's big flag makers who regularly has to make Vanuatu flags for ships, far more than you would expect for one of the world's smallest countries.
Graham Bartram
, 13 December 1999

Mistaken Variant

[Mistaken Variant (Vanuatu)] image by Ivan Sache

The goofed flag shown on the Flags of Paradise 1996 chart, with a two-branch yellow Y (the two disconnected branches being separated by a large black stripe connected to the black triangle).
Ivan Sache
, 16 July 1999

Unidentified Flags

Browsing in Internet I found this image with an unidentified flag left of the national flag.
Falko Schmidt
, 10 November 2001

That photograph appears in this page [broken link] about the celebration of Vanuatu's independence day in August 2000, where (among other events) the "Independence Day Flag Raising Ceremony" is described (somewhat funnily). The pictures illustrating this ceremony include the above image and this one but no mention about flags. The ceremony was attended by "VMF [Vanuatu Mobile Force, sort of Vanuatu army], the Police, the Royal Australian Navy Band, the Newcastle crew, the French Army contingent, the Scouts, and the Girl Guides" so some of these flags might belong to those groups.
Santiago Dotor
, 10 November 2001

A Vanuatu flag book

I recently received Lupant 1991, a book on Vanuatu flags. This book shows many flags of Vanuatu, from the colonial era, the time of independence and the present, and includes provincial flags. The book also shows the flag of Tanna, but according to this information, it is the same (or very similar, because the shade of blue is lighter) as the flag of the Vemerana Federation - a blue background with a green star in the center. But this is very strange: I saw the originally manufactured flag of Tanna on TV and around the star was a yellow circle (I posted the image some time ago). I think that the flag attributed to Tanna is only a proposal, a previous flag, or a mistake, because I'm sure that at the time of independence the flags (I know three patterns) hoisted included a yellow circle.
Jaume Ollé
, 16 January 1997