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Tuvalu

Constitutional Monarchy of Tuvalu (Fakavae Aliki-Malo i Tuvalu)

Last modified: 2012-11-09 by ian macdonald
Keywords: tuvalu | oceania | star | union jack | ellice islands | gilbert islands |
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The 1997 (current) flag

[Tuvalu flag] by Clay Moss, 23 January 2009

In this page:

See also:

History of the Flag

On 1 October 1975 the Ellice Islands separated from the Gilbert Islands and a separate administration took effect on 1 January 1976. The islands were renamed Tuvalu and on 3 December 1976 a new flag was adopted: the British blue ensign with arms. The Flag Bulletin (vol. 16, no.3) published an image with the arms in the blue field (without a white disk) but later this was corrected to include the white disk. The Chief Minister and Her Majesty's Commissioner used the Union Jack with arms in the usual pattern. The British blue ensign became obsolete on 1 October 1978 when a new flag was adopted by upon independence. The Union Jack flags of the Chief Minister and Her Majesty's Commissioner are not mentioned but probably became obsolete. Later Michel Lupant reported the Governor General's flag (blue with crest, and name "Tuvalu"), but different flag is published in Flaggenmitteilung 203 (p. 6): the national flag of the era, with the arms below the Union Jack, and the stars in the fly. This flag, attributed to the Governor General, must be the Chief Minister's one.
Jaume Ollé, 25 January 2000

On 11 April 1997, following a change of government, the flag of Tuvalu reverted to the flag of 1978.


Description of the flag

The current (and 1978 version of the) Tuvaluan flag is light blue ensign (like that of Fiji), possibly representing the colours of the tropical oceans around the islands. It bears nine stars for the nine islands of the archipelago (although only eight were originally inhabited, hence the name Tuvalu ["eight islands" in Tuvaluan). The disposition of the stars generally follows the geographic arrangement of the islands if the flag is hung from the hoist (i.e., the islands lie in a northwest-southeast chain). It is not known why some stars point upwards, and others downwards.

Compiled from contributions by Jan Zrzavy, Thanh-Tâm Lê, and Jostein Nygärd, 10 October 1998

It has proved difficult to pinpoint accurately the precise lay-out of the stars on the flag.  Clay Moss contacted the government of Tuvalu:

I sent them 5 images; Željko's [basically the 1978 flag], one drawn by Chris Southworth, one that sort of between [these two], one from their own site, and one last one showing the bottom star being placed dead lower center on the flag instead of being fully in the fly half. They returned my own "Željko" image with no explanation but "this one". I am as curious as anyone as to how they concluded this image was correct and would still like to get a specification sheet from them some time in the future. I found it interesting that they didn't pick the one that they use on their own site. With that said, Željko's image has been the FOTW standard for a while, and could for that reason already have a measure of credibility.
Clay Moss, 24 January 2009

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Tuvalu: PMS 280 blue, 186 red, 279 blue, 116 yellow. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 11 October 2012


State Flag

[Tuvalu state flag] by Clay Moss, 23 January 2009

 Dorling-Kindersley flag book gives some details on the coat of arms:

  • it depicts a local meeting house called 'maneapa'
  • the border contains eight sea-shells alternating with eight banana leaves to reflect the country's name (Tuvalu = Eight islands)
  • the motto 'Tuvalu mo te atua' means 'Tuvalu for God'
Ivan Sache, 10 January 2001

The state flag of Tuvalu was reported in Gaceta de Banderas number 58 (January 2000) by Michel Lupant, who has a photograph of "the Tuvalu High Commission [sic] in Suva (Fiji), Tuvalu's only embassy".
Santiago Dotor, 26 January 2001


Electronic Telegraph report of reversion to 1978 flag

Tide of loyalty to Queen submerges atoll republicans

By Robert Keith-Reid in Suva (Electronic Telegraph reporter)

"While some former British possessions seem eager to sever links with the Crown, Tuvalu, a chain of atolls in the South Pacific, is determined to preserve its own. Eighteen months of political tumult, which has disturbed the normally placid lives of the islanders, is due to come to an end later this month with the restoration of Tuvalu's original flag, which incorporated the Union flag.

The move, by Bikenibeu Paeniu, the prime minister, reverses the decision of his predecessor, Kamuta Lautasi, whose introduction of a new flag with a complex design of stars and stripes in red, blue, white and yellow, and minus the Union flag, led to uproar among the atolls' 9,000 people. Mr Lautasi saw the move as a prelude to Tuvalu becoming a republic, but protests grew. In one notable incident, the people of Niutao, one of Tuvalu's nine atolls, chopped down the flagpole as soon as the new banner was raised. They also announced that, to publicise their protest, their celebrated dancers would boycott the South Pacific arts festival in Western Samoa. Sensing that only a minority of Tuvaluans held republican sentiments, Mr. Paeniu launched a successful campaign to oust Mr. Lautasi. Mr Paeniu played on the affection which the people hold for the monarchy. In a carefully-orchestrated no-confidence attack, he promised that one of his first acts as prime minister would be to restore the old flag."

"Enele Sopoaga, the Tuvaluan ambassador in Fiji, said that restoring the old flag confirmed "respect for the Sovereign of Tuvalu and is in deference to the wishes of older people, who value the relationship with the United Kingdom. "We just feel that the original flag is the choice of our people and with respect to the founders of our nation we would rather retain the flag with which the people were consulted. With the feedback we are confident that the wish of the majority is to bring back the Union Jack."
Jan Oskar Engene, 10 February 1997

With a 7-5 majority the parliament of Tuvalu adopted 11 April 1997 it's 'new' flag. The description, proportions and colour shading, as received by Jos Poels (poels@edunl.org) from the office of the Prime Minister in Vaiaku (capital on the island Funafuti).

Tuvalu National Flag Amendment Act (Act 2 of 1997)' effective 17 April 1997

Description:
A light blue field with the Union Jack in the canton and nine yellow five-pointed stars in the fly arranged in vertical rows from hoist to fly as follows- one star with one point straight up; two stars each with one point straight down; two stars each with one point straight down; two stars each with one point point directly at the center of the other star; two stars each with one point straight up.

Proportions:
(a) Width : length = 1 : 2
(b) Area covered by Stars : One half
(c) Width of each star : Approximately one-twelfth the width of the flag
(d) Area covered by Union Jack Flag : One quarter.

Colour shading:
Union Jack = its normal colours - Red, Blue and White; remainder of flag - light blue ensign with nine golden yellow stars.
Jos Poels, 01 May 1997

The 1997 flag act can be located here:
Tuvalu Sessional Legislation: Tuvalu National Flag (Amendment) Act 1997

Jan Oskar Engene, 24 May 2003

There are two problems here, the first is that the law does not give an exact layout of the stars, and the second is that the precise angles of the two stars which face each other does not appear to be used in practice.

I have a photograph of an actual flag sent by the Government of Tuvalu in answer to enquiries on this subject, but (as I wrote in my last entry) it looks as if someone ran it up on a treadle sewing machine in their back room, and is useless for specification purposes. This flag does confirm two things however, first that the layout of the stars as shown in the Album des Pavillons (2000) may be taken as substantially correct, and that in practice the stars with one point up and one point down appear to be placed vertically and not angled towards each other as in the law.

Tuvalu is a very small country, whose airport I understand, doubles as a football pitch, and I wonder just how particular they are with regard to the layout of the stars? None the less, I will send a copy of my own specification sheet to the Government of Tuvalu and see what they say (they replied last time, perhaps they'll reply this?
Christopher Southworth, 13 May 2003


The 1995-1997 flag

[Tuvalu flag 1995-97] by Željko Heimer

According to Schedule 3 of the Tuvalu National Flag Act 1995 (Act No. 4 of 1995) the flag is described in the following way:

1. The Tuvalu National Flag has:
(a) five unequal stripes from top to bottom of red, white, blue, white and red;
(b) a white triangle at the hoist, the base of which corresponds to the area between the red stripes, and which bears the Tuvalu Coat of Arms; and
(c) eight white five-pointed stars arranged in the fly in an irregular band diagonally from bottom centre to upper fly, with two stars in each red stripe and four stars in the blue stripe.

The proportions of the flag are:
(a) Width : Height = 1:2
(b) Relative widths of stripes = approximately 5:1:13:1:5
(c) Height of Coat of Arms = 3/10 width of flag
(d) Distance from the hoist to the apex of the triangle = approximately 3/4 width of flag
(e) Diameter of each star = approximately 1/7 width of the flag"

You can find this piece of legislation in the University of South Pacific's Pacific Laws Project:
Tuvalu Sessional Legislation: Tuvalu National Flag Act 1995

Jan Oskar Engene, 24 May 2003


The 1995-1997 flag (October-December)

Tuvalu (independent 1979, formerly the Ellice Islands colony) changed its flag on 1 Oct 1995. The number of five pointed stars were reduced from nine to eight. The name of the country "Tuvalu" means "8 standing together" originally because only eight of the nine islands were populated. Recently, the ninth has become inhabited due to population pressures, but instead of changing the name of the country it has been decided to make the number of stars on the flag consistent with the name of the country.
Brendan Jones and William Crampton

The official website of Tuvalu (www.tuvaluislands.com/flags-index.html) also lists a flag that covers the gap between the Oct 95 demise of the original design and the introduction of the slightly longer lived 1996 design (with Jan 96 being confirmed by them). The design in question is given as lasting from Oct 95 - Dec 95 and is the original (later restored) version with light blue ground, gold stars and Union Flag, but with only 8 stars.
Christopher Southworth, 7 June 2003


The 1978-1995 flag

[1978-1995 Tuvalu flag] by Željko Heimer

Light blue with nine yellow stars in the fly and the Union Jack in the canton. Adopted on the day of independence 1 October 1978. Notice that the stars point in various directions.
William Crampton

Another version of this flag, with all stars pointing upwards, has been discussed:

[Tuvalu flag] Željko Heimer, 01 August 1996

Ellice Islands (1976-78)

Tuvalu and Kiribati were a single colony, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. The flag badge for this colony was the shield of the colony's arms in a white disc. These arms were passed to Kiribati (Gilberts) on independence, and their national flag is a banner of them. The arms of Tuvalu (Ellice Is) were granted to them on separation from the Gilberts.
Roy Stilling, 10 February 1996

[1975 Tuvalu flag] based on an image by Juan Manuel Gabino, 05 January 2000

After Tuvalu separated from Gilbert Islands, it adopted a new flag, or rather, new arms in the fly. Those arms were put into a white circle. As national flag, this blue ensign was replaced by the light blue ensign with nine yellow five-pointed stars in the fly in 1978. But according to "Flags of the World" by William Crampton: that blue ensign is still used by government vessels.
Juan Manuel Gabino, 05 January 2000

The motto states 'Maaka te atua, karinea te uea; mataku i te atua, fakamamalu ki te tupu', meaning "Fear God, Honour the King", the same as that of Fiji.
Roy Stilling and António Martins, 20 January 2000

The motto looks longer than this, and probably translates the full verse (I Peter 2:17) "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the King."
Andrew Yong, 21 January 2000

The last sentence (by Andrew Yong) is completely wrong: in Gilbertese, "Maaka te atua, karinea te uea", could be translated by "Fear God, honour the King". Te Atua ((the) God); Te Uea (the 'King'). The second "Mataku i te atua..." is very probably the tuvaluan version (Gilbert & Ellice Islanders speak two different languages, Gilbertese and Tuvaluan). In Tuvaluan, 'Atua'
(God) is the same word as in Gilbertese (chosen by the missionnary).
Vincenzo Guglielmelli, 1st December 2002


Governor General's flag

[Tuvalu Governor General's flag] by Željko Heimer

The standard pattern is reported by Michel Lupant though the story of this flag must be more vivid.
Željko Heimer, 26 March 2003


Sports flags?

At http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/07/100-percent-renewable-energy-by-2020-tuvalu.php are images of flags around Funafuti stadium. Are these local flags, islands flags, sport club flags, flags of agencies?
Zoltan Horvath, 15 January 2011

I think these are soccer flags, as the solar array is on the roof of Funafuti Stadium. The photograph on the cover of this brochure: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/20105404 shows the front-most flag more clearly, which is that of Lakena United, who were champions of Tuvalu in 2006. The next flag along probably shows the shape of an island, but which? Then on the same brochure cover is another flag, also seen as the grayscale background of page 30, which looks at the obverse of the flags: something like Niutao Sports Association.
Beyond is the flag of Tuvalu, then another island, might be meant as Vaitupo, or maybe Nui. The next flag is also seen on page 30: Tuvalu Association of Sports / National Olympic Committee / TASNOC. As the text is somewhat readable in both images, it must be in obverse on both sides.
The next flag is uncertain, and beyond that the treehugger photograph shows a flag with the lettering "Naut", which might be Nauti FC., though there appear to be Olympic rings on the flag. As the text is readable, it is probably in obverse on both sides.
The last flag is unknown.
Page 30 appears to have a slightly different order, or set, but there's a Nukufetau flag there, which might be one of the question marks above, probably for Nukufetau Atoll F.C.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 20 October 2011