To Live For.
Updated: Apr 18
The study of flags.
I love flags. Anyone who knows me just a little bit knows I love flags. They’re the best and I can identify all 197 of UN recognised states along with a load of others. Now a lot of people may be thinking “well what’s the use in that?” and they would be correct in thinking. But I enjoy and nerd out over vexillology so there. Flags are the most identifiable part of a country’s identity. Not everyone in the world can read or write but most will be able to look at a flag and recognise it.
Flags are used to show the rest of the world what a country is about, what it is proud of and what part of history they want to show off. For example, the Estonian Flag, a horizontal tricolour of blue, black and white represents Loyalty and Trust, Ancestors and the Past, and Snow and the Future. Whilst also representing the natural beauty of the country according Estonian Poet Martin Lipp.
Some flags are so similar to others that they are almost standardised, but this is usually used to represent cultural, ethnic or historical unity such as the Pan-Slavic colours of Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, the Pan-African colours of Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon and Mali which were based off the Ethiopian flag as it were the only uncolonized part of Africa, or the Pan-Arabic colours of Kuwait, Sudan and UAE.
There are some simple rules regarding flag design such as simplicity (no more than three colours, a child should be able to draw it) and symbolism (means something to the country that it represents). Some of the best flags in the world smash some of the rules regarding simplicity in order to create a beautiful and memorable flag such as the mythical countries of
Bhutan and Wales (biased, sue me) who have dragons on their flags. “Why?” I hear you ask
(ultimately because fuck your flag rules that’s why). It is mainly to create a spectacle in order to pay homage to their wonderful mythical pasts, where dragons play a big part. On the flip side you have the African Nations of South Africa, Uganda and the Seychelles who see your three colours and raise you with the Rainbow Nation tallying up with six colours.
I am someone that disregards the rule of simplicity, the colour rule and the idea that it should be able to be drawn by a child. This is because to me, symbolism is more important, no matter how complex. The Welsh nation has been united beneath the red dragon (Yr Ddraig goch yng Gymraeg) since the mythical days of King Arthur and was used in battle with the English Saxons under Owain Glyndwr’s banner. The use of it up to modern day is to show unity, resilience and uniqueness in the face the attitude of the Welsh Nation just being part of England.
Flags are such an important part of a country’s identity, sometimes it shows a shared history with other countries like the countries of Central America, sometimes it’s to show a country’s uniqueness and want to carve out a hole upon the world stage like Wales, Kiribati or Nepal
(only five-sided flag). Some flags are works of art: Seychelles, South Africa, Chicago or the prefectural flags in Japan (trust me, they are so aesthetically pleasing, like so much so that
they are calming.) On the flip side there are flags that can only be described as a shitshow: Belize, Guam, Bermuda (it literally has a sinking ship on it) and the County Flags of Liberia.
No matter what your country’s flag looks like it means and stands for something and the history will always be fascinating. They can be used for political gain or for art, and will always be died for but more importantly, lived for.