Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Hornbill and Flags

I have always been fascinated with flags, emblems and crests for the symbolism that they carry. The website that carries a very credible amount of such information is the Flags of the World.

It has never ceased to strike me that the flags of the Malaysian State of Sarawak, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) and the Australian Aboriginal flag bear such strikingly similar colours.

[Sarawak (Malaysia)] .
Interpretation of the three colours
Red Colour: symbolises the courage, determination and sacrifices of the people in their tireless pursuit to attain and maintain progress and esteem in the course of creating a model State;
Yellow Colour: denotes the supremacy of Law and Order, unity and stability in diversity.
Black Colour: symbolises the rich natural resources and wealth of Sarawak such as petroleum, timber etc. which provide the foundation for the advancement of the people;
The Yellow nine pointed Star denotes the nine divisions where the people live in harmony. The Star symbol also embodies the aspiration of the people of Sarawak in their quest to improve their quality of life.

Flag of  Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
The national flag has two triangles of red over black. The local kumul bird of paradise flies across the red half, symbolizing Papua New Guinea's emergence into nationhood. The five five-pointed stars of the Southern Cross constellation appear in the black, reflecting ties with Australia and other nations of the South Pacific. Black, red and yellow are also traditional colours in Papua New Guinea.

Flag of East Timor
The yellow triangle represents "the traces of colonialism in East Timor's history". The black triangle represents "the obscurantism that needs to be overcome"; the red base of the flag represents "the struggle for national liberation"; the star, or "the light that guides", is white to represent peace.

Australian Aboriginal flag

The Australian Aboriginal flag was originally designed as a protest flag for the land rights movement of indigenous Australians but has since become a symbol of the Aboriginal people of Australia. The flag is a yellow circle on a horizontally divided field of black and red and was designed in 1971 by Harold Thomas, an Aboriginal artist descended from the Luritja of Central Australia. On 14 July 1995, both the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag were officially proclaimed by the Australian government as "Flags of Australia" under Section 5 of the Flags Act 1953.
It is obvious that the original human inhabitants of the archipelagic region were suitably impressed by the magnificent Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros).

There appears to be an ornithological link although recent records does not suggest that the Rhinoceros Hornbill is found in the antipodal countries of Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea or Australia. Nor is there a clear anthropological link between the peoples of the archipelagic region stretching from Sumatra, Java and Borneo to the antipodal countries. Or, is there?


Salak said...

Striking similarities!

You might like to check Alfred R Wallace on his travels to the Malay Archipelago. He was more struck by the Bird of Paradise.

You might know that he travelled in the islands in the mid 1800's around the time that Brooke sailed the area. Perhaps geopolitics could be a perspective. There are other areas like ethno-linguistics (anthropology) which can trace words, totally different in written and oral forms but have indicators of origins. But he believed that the western part of the area is Indian, while the eastern is more Australian.

Interestingly, people of Tioman Islands are believed to have some similarities of dialect with Sarawak coastal people.

With the global crisis on, food will be a major concern among the average people in the region. :))

de minimis said...

Hi Salak

Thanks for the pointer. Most gracious of you.

Anonymous said...

Pity Old Glory was not there.
When I get sick and tired of Malaysia, I do reflect on the lyrics of the Star Spangled banner.

I know its out of topic but perhaps it may still be included in the general discussion of flags. It was in 1812, when Francis Scott Key, an American, was on board a British warship off the coast of Baltimore. He was there on a prisoner release mission. The Brits basically had their gunboats fire shells from a far to the fort. The fort commanders ordered all lights out and every time they checked to see whether the flag was still there, perhaps by the flash of the cannon fire. It was never lowered, and in the break of dawn, there stood in its place, an even larger flag.

The Brits gave up.

de minimis said...

Mr P

I don't care if you're off-tangent. It is a great anecdote on the importance of flags. As far as I'm concerned, it's highly relevant ;)

Marius said...


good post, and reinforced with photographs as well.

Would you like to credit a site from which you have used a direct link to the image?

de minimis said...

Hi Marius

I always tend to overlook giving the necessary credits for photos. Mea culpa. Under time constraint, I tend to rush the blog post. My sincere apologies for the oversight. Most of the time the pictures have embedded links. Of course, sometimes they don't.