Saturday, April 1, 2017

This Week In Vexillology #207

Well, I was going to take advantage of the wide spread mourning over the collapse of the Azure Window to revisit the flag of Malta, but I some digging provided a much more exciting alternative than another Lost Weekend in Vexillology- because you see, today, the Canadian Province of Nunavut turns 18! Nunavut's legal! Woot woot!

So, Happy Birthday to Canada's newest province- so let's check out their flag:
This is a boss flag. According to Wikipedia, it was criticized for having too many colors, the placement of the star at the end of the flag and the use of gold and white as the background field and the black outline around the red inuksuk in the center. All, IMHO, utterly bullshit complaints and here's why: the gold and white are a good color combination and the red inuksuk at the center acts as the glue between the two sides of the flag perfectly. Had they but the blue star on the gold portion of the flag, I might buy into the whole idea that there are too many colors- but the blue star on the white sky? Works fine for me. Plus- stars don't hang in the sky like they do on flags, so I'm fine with the placement of the star as well. The black outline of the inuksuk is just getting nit-picky, really...  an inuksuk from what I can tell is a pile of stones used as a navigational aid and/or sacred marker and adding the black outline to it on the flag helps to better delineate what it is.

So all the criticism*: bullshit. This is a boss flag, Nunavut. Fly this bad-boy proudly.

Let's break it down, shall we: the red inuksuk at the center is a traditional Inuit land marker (as we've already mentioned.) It's red to represent Canada as a whole (and is a nice call back/tie back to the Canadian flag itself with the red maple leaf so prominent in the center.) The colors blue and yellow represent the riches of the land, sea and sky and while the Wiki-page doesn't actually say it, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the white represents snow? The blue star itself represents the North Star and the leadership of elders in the community.

Just for kicks, let's check out their Coat of Arms as well:

Is that a narwahl? That's a narwahl! That's freakin' awesome! So let's start with the shield, which is a roundel and not a traditional shield (which to me, makes sense.) The blue and gold of the shield represent the riches of the land and the blue portion contains a representation of the midnight sun and the star is, of course, The North Star. The gold portion contains an inuksuk and a qulliq, a stone lamp that represents the home and community.

The crest is an igloo which stands for traditional life, survival and the territorial government assembled in the legislature. The crown stands for royal sovereignty. Supporting it all, we've got a caribou and a narwahl which stand for sustenance and the natural resources of the land and sea. They stand on top of an iceberg at sea (the narwahl) and a field of Arctic poppies, dwarf fireweed and Arctic heather. The motto of Nunavut in traditional syllabary is listed below: "Our land, our strength."

So, that's Nunavut! Remember, until next time keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

*Sigh. I was a good vexillologist and followed the Wikipedia citation down the rabbit hole and found this. I'm still not entirely impressed with what I found there...  if it's true that credit was not given to the Inuk youngster that came up with the same design, then that's a fair charge to be levelled. But the rest? I'm not convinced. While yeah, the flag of the NWT is kind a hot mess with the number of colors in play, the author seems to think that the national flag with it's 'stark beauty' is the gold standard that provinces should aim for.

I don't find this flag all that crowded and I think the red inuksuk being so prominent reduces any arguments about the gold-white bicolor to negligible at best- while yes, the Vatican is the only other state to use that particular color combination, I think the prominence of the inuksuk hides any similarities to the Vatican quite nicely- though the author stands on firmer ground by pointing out that these shades may be more prone to fading in the environment of Nunavut. 

His overall argument is rooted in the traditional rules of heraldry and an approach to vexillology that is almost scientific in nature- which is a perfectly valid point of view. But, speaking as someone from south of the border whose approach might be more based in design than tradition, I think rules are made to be broken and if you know the rules, you can break them successfully. This is a standout design that isn't that crowded, despite the assertions to the contrary and it avoids the truly cardinal sin of any words on a flag.

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