The Tino Rangatiratanga Flag: It’s a flag that speaks, directly, to this country’s past, present and future. For that reason, alone, it makes the strongest case for being chosen as the present flag’s replacement. That it is also a superb design merely strengthens its claim.
THERE’S A HOUSE not far from here that flies the Tino Rangatiratanga flag. Every day, rain or shine, its flutters bravely atop its slender flagpole. A statement? Certainly. But isn’t every flag? The Tino Rangatiratanga flag stands for Maori sovereignty. It’s about the proper relationship between those who came to these islands first and those who came later. In other words, it’s a flag that speaks, directly, to this country’s past, present and future. For that reason, alone, it makes the strongest case for being chosen as the present flag’s replacement. That it is also a superb design merely strengthens its claim.
Tragically, New Zealanders will not be given the opportunity to vote for the Tino Rangatiratanga flag. The government-appointed Flag Consideration Panel has released the four “finalists” from the 40 designs it selected from the more than 10,000 submissions it received – and the Tino Rangatiratanga flag is not among them. (Hardly surprising, really, since it didn’t make the “Top-40” either!)
Even more tragically, not one of the “Final Four” comes close to the Tino Rangatiratanga flag in terms of either graphic power or cultural resonance. Though the Panel was charged with ensuring that any new flag’s design reflected the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi-inspired partnership between Maori and Pakeha, not one of the chosen flags features the red, white and black “colours” that are fundamental to Maori artistic expression. Not to worry, the Panel have carefully covered the base marked “Maori” with a flag featuring a stark black koru. Sorted.
The remaining designs all feature the Silver Fern – either on its own, or, in combination with the Southern Cross.
The problem is that a flag based on these traditional New Zealand symbols cannot help but draw attention to the country’s colonial history. If England was represented by the rose, Ireland the shamrock, Scotland the thistle, and Wales the leak, then what was New Zealand’s national “flower”? The answer turned out to be the ubiquitous silver fern. The Aussies contribution to Great Britain’s sprawling imperial garden was the wattle.
The Southern Cross, too, reflected the Northern Hemisphere origins of the Southern Hemisphere’s British colonisers. South of the Equator the stars were different. “Crux” (The Cross) just happened to be the constellation most easily identified by emigrants travelling in southern latitudes. Perversely, the “Southern Cross”, rather than representing a new beginning, ended up reminding the colonists how far they were from “home”.
The substitution of the silver fern for the Union Jack is not, therefore, a bold statement of nationhood – merely a capitulation to the embarrassment of incorporating another nation’s flag in the corner of our own.
But why be embarrassed in the first place? Everything about New Zealand, from its political institutions, to its courts, its schools, universities, and sporting codes, have been borrowed directly from the British. Yet nobody is suggesting we give up the Westminster System, the Common Law, the unrivalled cultural achievements of Britain’s artists, philosophers and scientists – let alone Rugby or Cricket! So, why quibble about keeping Britannia’s flag? What better reminder could there be of where the nation of New Zealand has its origins?
Except, of course, our nation was built on Maori foundations. For all its mock gothic architecture and borrowed parliamentary rituals, New Zealand is the deliberate creation of speculative British capital. Initially, a source of raw materials: timber, flax and gold. Later, a magnificent British farm. For the hard-bitten men who created her, New Zealand was always expected to pay her way. Its original inhabitants, and the complex culture they had created over seven centuries of occupation, were simply in the way. Those who could not be pacified by British missionaries would be dispossessed by British troops. Whatever flags they may once have flown were hauled down and forgotten.
A New Flag Flying - It may require a revolution to do it.
And we are still forgetting them – or leaving them out of the reckoning. But go to any gathering whose purpose is not to celebrate the status quo. Visit any place where the aspirations of Maori are on the agenda. Think of any future in which the needs of both the colonisers and the colonised are fairly assessed – and you will find a new flag flying.
It may require a revolution to do it, but, one day, the Tino Rangatiratanga flag will replace the Silver Fern, the Southern Cross and the Union Jack.
This essay was originally posted on the Stuff website on Thursday, 3 September 2015.
Chris, this paragraph sizes up the country, still affected by its colonial past. I wonder whether colonies ever get over their early manifestation, definitely more nurture than nature.
Except, of course, our nation was built on Maori foundations. For all its mock gothic architecture and borrowed parliamentary rituals, New Zealand is the deliberate creation of speculative British capital. Initially, a source of raw materials: timber, flax and gold. Later, a magnificent British farm. For the hard-bitten men who created her, New Zealand was always expected to pay her way.
(Me: Many were land speculators, criminal in their lies, false documentation and promotional material selling land they did not own or had obtained by improper means. Earlier NZ had been considered for special factory and mercantile sites to be operated as separate from the rest of the country. Luckily it did not fall into merciless hands such as Leopold 2 of Belgium, uncle to Queen Victoria.)
Its original inhabitants, and the complex culture they had created over seven centuries of occupation, were simply in the way. Those who could not be pacified by British missionaries would be dispossessed by British troops. Whatever flags they may once have flown were hauled down and forgotten.
I like the Tino Rangatiratanga flag. The colours were of importance to Maori in their culture. The design is clear, artistic and unique. To me the red is the blood that we have all invested in this land, the white the tears wept as have clashed with each other and lived through tragedies, the black is the country which we must conserve, keep fertile and clothed with sheltering plants and trees and which provides for us and the other living creatures we share with.
I disagree with you, our present flag is the best flag for our country and I intend to vote for our present flag. That was the flag we fought under at Gallipoli with our Aussie mates. It was also the flag that represented us in two world wars and many other war situations to a lesser degree. The Maori servicemen and women who fought in those wars did so with bravery and distinction but so did everyone else. The present flag embraces everyone and precludes racial superiority and sporting dogma.
I sure hope your prediction in your last paragraph never comes true!
You are forgetting, I think, that the foundations of European New Zealand were laid firmly, and it seems permanently, upon land and property speculation. New Zealand has very nearly foundered under property speculation and all, before this, and is like to do so again very soon.
I was thinking that had the Tino Rangitiratanga flag been on offer I would not have voted for it either, but, thinking about it further, I rather think I might well have done after all. It has the virtue of combining meaning with simplicity - the main, but contending, criteria for effective vexillology (a personal view). If it wiped the eye of this 'National' Government, that would have been fine with me.
There seems to be some evidence that this whole selection and voting process is a pretence and a sham: the the thing has been done and dusted for months. A couple of photos that have appeared on Facebook might or might not be genuine, but the John Oliver show of October/November 2014 (about the NZ flag campaign), is hard to go past. The most prominently featured design on that show 'turns out' to have made the final four, and you know as well as I do, that it will be the final selection.
The question is - what has this Government been sneaking under the radar with this showpiece 'campaign'? I rather think were aren't talking TPPA, here...
"I sure hope your prediction in your last paragraph never comes true!"
And I sure hope it does.
"...Wales the leak..."
Matthew Hooton tweeted you about the Harawira Family owning copyright over Tino Rangatiratanga Flag and refusing it's use?
My Mum flies the Tino flag from the front of her house. My job to keep it maintained:-)
I too think the Tino Rangatiratanga is a beautiful bold statement and I would be very happy to see it as New Zealand's flag.
I also think a revolution is inevitable.
You may like to see http://thegrapevineson.blogspot.co.nz/
What was that about Matthew Hooton and Harawira family owning copyright?
I can't find that on the post. Do Harawire family own copyright on Tino Rangatiratanga flag? Can someone give definite detail on that?
It is possible I suppose. Because the commercial aspect of using Maori cultural symbols for profit has to be considered and controlled.
I think we need a new flag for a new and increasingly multi-cultural nation.
That said, it would have been nice (though not essential) if we could have had something on the ballot paper that referenced both of our formative traditions (Maori and British) but not to the exclusion of aesthetics and (I make no excuses for using the term) effective global branding.
As it is, we’ll be faced with a choice of two putative flags that barely reference these traditions at all, one that only vaguely references the Maori tradition (the koru design) and one that references the British, but only through using a colour choice that’s also found on (inter alia) the French, Dutch, Croatian, Slovenian, Serb, Czech, Slovak, Luxembourg, US, Australian, Taiwanese, North Korean, Thai, Philippine, Cuban, Chilean, Paraguan and Panamanian banners . How mind-witheringly boring!
Even more to the point, the choice is aesthetically atrocious! Any one of these (with, just maybe, the possible exception of the koru design) would make us a global laughing stock and possibly impact negatively on our export sales, inbound tourism etc.
The only good thing to be said about the choice is that it excludes the totally black backgrounds so beloved of nationalistic sports jocks but which would suggest to many folk overseas that we’ve either gone fascist or jihadist and/or are in love with death, funerals and piracy. Even so, there’s far too much drab, dreary, life-denying black on all the chosen flags other than the boring, ultra-tacky, red, white and blue job.
Compared to these miserable and insulting efforts, the Tino Rangatiratanga flag is a triumph of good design. But it’s a restless, surging flag that’s good for protest marches and not for moments of tranquillity. It’s certainly not a flag for all seasons or all people. The colour choice (and I do understand its historical/theological significance)is part of that. And then there’s the unfortunate coincidence of the twentieth century’s most notorious angry, surging protest banner (the Nazi swastika flag) having used precisely those colours.
My own preference was for the following (rather conservative)amalgam, which successfully references both of our formative traditions, whilst also acknowledging the things that make me (an immigrant of 30 years standing) always pleased to return here, viz: the mountain peaks, the ocean rollers, the bush and the clear blue skies of summer. These colours explain why part of me felt reborn when I first came here. I’m quite sad that it was excluded from the penultimate cut:
The first flag in the second row from the top of the "long list", worked similarly for me, albeit without referencing our traditions. It would, I think, have made for an attractive and useful national symbol and would certainly have looked good in the global riot of colour outside the UN headquarters as well as on the labels of New Zealand exports:
Who knows, it might even have proved economically worthwhile to spend umpteen million had we ended up with a flag of this sort, although the process could also have been arranged more cheaply (e.g. by adding a “No Change” option to the first and only referendum).
In any event, I’m now firmly back in the “No Change” camp!
Cannot crib about yer pick.Our Prime Minister,may have a crib,but heh!refugee his care is vacant in his profit exploitation lifes value..
Egit,yous,we have chosen,even told yous,this is what I and I,are saying,time for your love of me to say change our flag,easy your love for me is unforgiving,look its black and silver.
I don't think the Tino Rangatiratanga flag should be the national flag unless and until New Zealand stands for what the Tino Rangatiratanga flag stands for. If we adopted that as our flag and then just carried on with neoliberal politics regardless, it would have lost its meaning as a protest symbol, a protest symbol we would still need.
I can't relate to the compulsion so many have to marching in unison under banners.
It completely eludes me, so I couldn't give a tinker's.
"The problem is that a flag based on these traditional New Zealand symbols cannot help but draw attention to the country’s colonial history." So John Key wants us to get up-dated. Yes, you're right, the same John Key who got knighthoods back.
For various reasons Archduke Piccolo (above) was right to use the words 'pretence and sham.'
I have long thought that the Tino Rangatira flag is the only valid choice, even before this current fiasco, but I can't see any hope for it in my lifetime.
the distraction gathers force...job done
It certainly does speak directly and clearly but what it says is most unpleasant.
I don't care a vast army of tinkers. But an atrocious choice will make us a global laughing stock and/or an apparently totalitarian enclave worthy of global opprobrium. So one does need to care just a few tiny tinkers.
Anonymous Victor said...
I think we need a new flag for a new and increasingly multi-cultural nation.
That's why I oppose the idea.
Chris talks about "the political class". We sure are seeing that with the reporting of the "migrant crisis". Germans are "opening their arms" but polls prior to the migrant invasion show a majority oppose migration from outside the EU. Also, "pressure is mounting on the government": form who? Don't we live in a democracy? When pressure mounts on the government from one side and it acts against a majority that is treason?
Where is the acknowledgement of Syria's massive population growth leading up to the crisis?
Analysis of statements by the father of the drowned boy on the beach suggest he wasn't even on the boat when it was swamped?
Whale oil has coined the moniker "media party" for our media and how true.
I think this is a bit of an exaggeration Victor, I doubt if anyone else really cares what our flag looks like. And if you think it might look like the isis flag, well someone did a lookalike with dildos, so it can't get any worse than that :-).
The Tino Rangatiratanga flag would be an appallingly bad choice for a new flag, because a very large part of NZ simply doesn't believe it represents them.
John is absolutely right. It is the Maori Sovereignty flag and it has come to represent division. not unity. Hobson concluded the Treaty signing ceremonies in 1840 with the statement in Maori "Now we are one", not "Now we are two".
A very large part of NZ don't believe the old one represents THEM - yet we've had it for years. And the OTHER very large part didn't give a shit.
This whole thing seems to me like your typical white backlash. For years we go along with a flag that doesn't really represent Maori, and nobody cares. But then as soon as something arrives that might represent that reasonably large proportion of the population, i.e. as soon as Maori seem to be getting something,some people get upset. It says 'unpleasant things'. Well, so does the Union Jack to some people. It doesn't represent a large proportion of the population – neither did the last one and you didn't give a fuck. But all of a sudden people become concerned – sheer and rank hypocrisy.
"That's why I oppose the idea."
Yes, I knew you would.
Thanks for not disappointing me
"I think this is a bit of an exaggeration Victor, I doubt if anyone else really cares what our flag looks like"
You may be right. But why take the risk over something that's inherently tasteless, both aesthetically and in terms of its negative connotations?
There's no point in changing the flag at all,unless it's for something that non-New Zealanders are going to sit up and take half-conscious, approving notice of, if only for 30 seconds.
National flags don't primarily represent citizens of a given country to each other. They represent a country to the world. That's why we have them.
A combination of willful ignorance and racism, actually, Guerilla Surgeon
Guerilla Surgeon - I agree - The Union Jack on our flag is not representative, which is why it should be replaced. But not by another flag with is also not representative.
Victor, flags are a geegaw that 90% of the world take no notice of :). Except when some scoundrel needs a last refuge :).
A flag that represents NZ ?All of us came here from other places Maori included so what is a symbol that defines us now and gives us all a feeling of representing all the people who live here
Not easy We all used the stars to get here originally and birds and time
Lets not think politically or who we were or are now but may be a simple flag with the three main islands bush green and Pacific Blue that make up this country totally unique different from everywhere else practical
and cant be mistaken with no intellectual aberrations and remind us of what we need to protect
Too boring nah too real more like
I'm not sure. Try thinking of France without the Tricolor. And if I want to buy a watch that I'm convinced will work, I look for that chubby white cross on the red background.
If NZ changes its flag for something that's startlingly beautiful, there will be fifteen seconds on primetime news around the world devoted to this. It will help sell a tiny bit more sav blanc, Manuka honey and inbound tourism. Not, I agree, a huge deal. But not to be sniffed at either.
Conversely, if we chose one of the current line up of candidates, we'll get thirty seconds of barely disguised ridicule that will impact on sales and, perhaps, on the markets.
New Zealand's economy survives because the world likes us, wants to believe in Shangri La and refuses to believe how bad a mess we're in. I'd prefer it if our economy depended on real achievements. But it doesn't. And so we need to keep up the window dressing.
Not much has changed since Wakefield's time really.
A further thought. Don't look to history for your flag.
Choose a great (and simple) design and build your history around that.
The Tricolor would have meant little to non-Parisians in 1789. But, by 1792, patriots from across France were ready to defend it to the death.
Victor I couldn't tell the Italian flag from the French except on a good day. 99% of the world wouldn't know any but their own flag I suspect. And it probably won't rate even 30 seconds outside the US and Britain. So to be honest I don't care.
I realise after rereading the post that no-one has thought of branching out into humour. The suggestion is that flags say something to the onlooker, often quickly forgotten. So what about a design that makes the viewer look twice, giggle, then talk about it.
Probably Kilroy was here has been trademarked. It became popular all over the world.
We could get some our wits to think of a flag for our Brave New World. If we can keep laughing that is a form of defence, of unwillingness to be swallowed up in the conformity that is spreading over the country, in colours, black, brown and beige and grey (silver).
We have got the Tobys at Radionz. And lots of other good cartoonists and graphic designers. We would be a world first. The sods have managed to destroy the world that my birth father died for. So let's go on the ironic path, while still trying for a soupcon of the hopes and smarts and standards of the past to march behind today. If Maori design could be agreed on and used, it would be meaningful as I think only Maori have enough gumption and community spirit to gather us all up, spread some awhi, and go on trying to be a great little country.
Greywarbler - I especially like the last wo paragraphs of your post :)
"patriots from across France were ready to defend it to the death."
By such toys are men led -Napoleon Bonaparte.
"Victor I couldn't tell the Italian flag from the French except on a good day."
Obviously not a pizza eater.
"By such toys are men led -Napoleon Bonaparte."
Well, if flags aren't to be used for stimulating patriotism (an over-rated virtue, to my mind),then their only real utility is as a form of commercial branding (i.e. tools for manipulating your customers' subconscious).
So choose something that's going to do that or leave it as it is. Enough already!
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