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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Vexillology: Study of Flags; One of the Newest Pursuits

Vexillology: One of the Newest Pursuits
Scholarly study of all aspects of flag is Vexillology. The term was coined in 1957 by Late    Dr Whitney Smith from the Latin word vexillum for flag. The Flag Institute, UK defines Vexillology as the scientific study of flags and related emblems. It is concerned with research into flags of all kinds, both modern and historical, the creation of a body of practice for flag design and usage, and of a body of theory of flag development.
Since time immemorial man has felt the need of a sign or symbol to distinguish himself, his family, his tribe, his country, and such symbols have taken many differing forms, of which one is the flag. Every country has a National flag. Today, there is no country in the world which does not have a National flag. It is an explicit outward symbolic expression of how a country sees itself.                                                             
Flags became wide spread symbols of national identity from early 19th century.
Before the French Revolution of 1789, it was monarchy and not the common people,
who had a flag. With the advent of ‘Nation-State’ concept and the ensuing growth
of nationalism - flags have become a globalised phenomenon.
Flags are ‘short hand of history’. The relevance of the adage of Harry Truman;
the only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know” is amply established
in the study of flags. A flag is something more than a coloured piece of cloth (bunting)
of which it is made. It incarnate s something spiritual. Intrinsically a flag may be
valueless but extrinsically a national flag is priceless. In most countries, people
feel that the national flag belongs to the citizens and,therefore, they articulate this
by waving it in innumerable social settings which manifest the existence and
glorification of the country.
 Nowadays, it has become a trend to wave the flag colours profusely to cheer their
favourite teams in the Olympics and other international sports events.
Flags are truly inseparable from society. The serious study of flags is one of the
newest pursuits available to those who take an intimate interest in the world
around them;
Study of a flag is A BIT LIKE BIRD WATCHING; is that it involves Spotting, identification,
classification, and some knowledge of backgrounds, type & various other features
and their functions.
IT IS ALSO A BIT LIKE HISTORY; is that it includes some understanding of past events
and how they came about. In fact, story of flags is mostly interwoven with historical events
reflecting our struggles, aspirations and hopes.
IT IS A BIT LIKE GEOGRAPHY too; is that one has to know his way around the world,
his own country, and even obscure places.
A vexillologist collects, preserves, organizes and publicises flag information. For him
the flag study is not just restricted on collecting the real flags only but from a plethora
of other artifacts
and materials, namely, books, archival documents, news-papers, advertisements
and many other conventional/unconventional sources like; postage stamps, medals,
coins & currency notes, match box labels, propaganda/publicity leaflets, cigarette
cards, and so on and so forth. In another word he embraces a rainbow of all
collecting arena.

H:\Flag foreign stamps\South Africa ICV.jpgInternational Congress of Vexillology (ICV)s
are held each two years under the auspices of the International Federation of
Vexillological Associations (FIAV). The ICVs consist mainly of lectures, presentations
and workshops by the leading flag experts who have the opportunity to present
their research and activities to their international peers. The author represented
India in three consecutive ICVs, the only Indian to do so, at Rotterdam (25th ICV, 2013),
Sydney (26th ICV, 2015) and in London (27th ICV, 2017).

Monday, November 13, 2017

London International Flag Congress, ICV 27

International Flag Congress, London, August 2017: A report

This year, the 27th International Congress of Vexillology (ICV) held at the Imperial College, South Kensington, London from 7th -11th August attracted about 300+ delegates from 38+ different countries where 42 lectures were delivered. It was such a pleasure meeting old friends and new, and all had a great time - despite the best efforts of the good old British weather!

International Congress of Vexillology (ICV)s are held every two years under the auspices of the International Federation of Vexillological Associations (FIAV). FIAV is an association of 60 + Flag societies and flag research centres from 43+ countries. ICVs consist mainly of lectures, presentations and workshops by the world’s leading flag experts who have the opportunity to present their research and activities to their international peers.
 Attendance at the Congress and the excursions to flag-related sites and various social functions provide the forum to deepen relationships with other vexillologists who have similar interests, and the opportunity for ideas to be cross-fertilised by contact with peers who have different specialisations.

International Congress of Vexillology(ICV)s are held every two years under the auspices of the International Federation of Vexillological Associations (FIAV). FIAV is an association of 60 + Flag societies and flag research centres from 43+ countries. ICVs consist mainly of lectures, presentations and workshops by the world’s leading flag experts who have the opportunity to present their research and activities to their international peers. Attendance at the Congress and the excursions to flag-related sites and various social functions provide the forum to deepen relationships with other vexillologists who have similar interests, and the opportunity for ideas to be cross-fertilised by contact with peers who have different specialisations.
 About 40 acclaimed speakers from all across the world presented their original researched papers on myriad flag related topics. Later these lectures will be published in book form by the Flag Institute, UK.
Sekhar Chakrabarti on political party flags that have doubled up as national flags

From India, Mr Sekhar Chakrabarti, a well known vexillologist participated as an invitee to the 27th ICV and presented his well researched paper on aspects of Indian National Flag which was highly appreciated by the esteemed audience.
 He has earned the distinction of being the sole Indian delegate to present his papers in three consecutive ICVs viz. the 25th ICV at Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2013, the 26th ICV at Sydney, Australia and the 27th ICV in London.

Dr. Patrice de La Condamine on "Women and Flags.

Christopher Maddish writes Condamine focused on portrayal of women on flags.  They can be seem of patriotic or rather "matriotic" heroines, religiously, warriors, motherly images, and many other ways.

He noted that although Islamic statues forbids the portrayal of women in forms, one flag in Egypt has the statue bust of Nefertiti upon it.  Caondmine also pointed out several flags from Nazi Germany and North Korea that used women to inspire and represent the people.

Patrice also pointed out some fun flags, which included the proverbial tri-skelleton flag for the opposing gender the Isle of Woman.  

Dr Condamine with our each others books

Kevin Harrington's paper was entitled Flags and the Anniversaries of 2017: Myths, Mistakes, Misconceptions. Christopher writes Harrington spoke briefly about flags that were changed due to the Socialist Red Scare, namely of the old red Oklahoma flag and a few others.  Harrington also gave an enchanting retelling of his youthful excitement in 1965 when the current Canadian flag was adopted, which he instantly loved.  

Harrington proposed that the some Canadian flags with the red and blue ensign may have never existed, and only came into existence due to assumptions and errors.  Essentially the Admiralty was making mistakes and assumptions, based upon the hypotheticals.  As of yet there is no direct evidence that some flags existed.  Perhaps the flags were proposed, but none were created to fly on a flag pole?  

Ralph Kelly of Australia spoke on "A Flag For Empire"

Scot Guenter of USA giving a wonderful paper on the "Essence of vexillology", his paper titled "Historical shifts and emergent paradigms : tradition, ideology, source of power and influence in flag studies".

 Ms Sukla Chakrabarti(extreme left) with Maria Esther Cruz (Netherlands), Scot Guenter and Nicolas Hugot (France).

Kevin Harrington of Canada spoke on "Flags and the Anniversaries of 2017: myths, mistakes, misconceptions".

Christopher Maddish of USA on "Colour Coding"

Rachel Phelan of Ireland on "Conserving the Irish Republic flag that flew during the 1916 Easter Rising".

Roberto Breschi of Italy on "The flag treasures in Florence".

Mr Chakrabarti presenting his award winning book "The Indian National unfurling Through Philately" published by Niyogi Books to Dr Michel Lupant (in the centre) of Belgium - the President of the FIAV and to Prof Ian Sumnar of Flag Institute, UK, Programme Director ICV27, Maggie Sumner.
Signing Books
The Prize Winners

Texas Flag Society receiving the FIAV flag for the next Congress at San Antonio in 2019

To be continued

Monday, July 17, 2017

ICV 27, London Flag Congress 2017.

London Flag Congress, ICV27

Since 1969, the Fédération internationale des associations vexillologiques (FIAV) an international federation of 52 regional, national, and multinational vexillological associations and institutions across the globe. has sponsored the biennial International Congresses of Vexillology (ICV). Every two years the world’s flag people come together to discuss the subject they love best, flags, hear talks on various vexillological subjects and socialise. 

 Flag Institute, UK will organise the 27th International Congress of Vexillology (ICV27) from 6-11 August 2017, at Huxley Building, Imperial College, 180 Queen's Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 2AZ .

Here is the full programme, list of the speakers and the titles of their topics to be presented during the Congress. 
1500-1800 Registration
Venue: Huxley Building
1800-2000 Informal get-together
Venue: FiveSixEight, Beit Quadrangle, 2 Prince Consort Rd, Kensington, London SW7 2BB

0900-1000 Opening Ceremony / official ICV27 photograph
Venue: Queen's Lawn, Imperial College
 Conference Speakers;
1030-1100 Annie Platoff (USA) : Little Leninists: flags, symbols, and the political socialization of Soviet children
1100-1130 Tiago José Berg (Brazil) : Vexillology with high school students
1130-1200 Ted Kaye (USA) : American city flag redesign - a welcome change
1200-1230 Kevin Harrington (Canada) : Flags and the Anniversaries of 2017 - myths, mistakes, misconceptions
1400-1430 Christopher Maddish (USA) : Colour coding and new vexillological avenues for flag design
1430-1500 Pierre-Jean Guionin (France): The new edition of Album des pavillons et des marques distinctives
1500-1530 Victor Lomantsov (Russia) : Flags of trade-unions' sport societies in the USSR
1600-1630 Sekhar Chakrabarti (India): Variant of dominant political party flag as national flag - confusions and controversies: a case study
1630-1700 John Cartledge (UK) : Red for danger
1830-2200 Welcome barbecue includes celebration toast marking the 50th Anniversary of the Inception of FIAV (ICV2, Rüschlikon, 1967)
Venue: Roof terrace, Baden Powell House, 65-67 Queen's Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5JS 

0900-0930 Ralph Bartlett (Australia) : Flags by King for Country
0930-1000 Rachel Phelan (Ireland) : What's up with the big green flag? The conservation of the flag of the Irish Republic
1000-1030 Roberto Breschi (Italy) : A vexillological treasure in Florence, Italy
1100-1130 Manuela Schmöger (Germany) : - a Wiki about municipal flags
1130-1200 Scot Guenter (USA): Historical shifts and emergent paradigms: tradition, ideology, sources of power and influence in flag studies
1200-1230 Alan Hardy : The standard colour set, a common ratio, contrast and individualities
1400-1430 Ralph Kelly (Australia): A flag for Empire
1430-1500 Cédric de Fougerolle (France) : Ex-libris and vexillology
1500-1530 Ladislav Hnát (Czech Republic) : Party flags, colours and logos in the 8th European Parliament
1600-1610 Pluethipol Prachumphol (Thailand) : History of the Thai flag
1610-1620 Slovenian Vexillological Association : ICV29 bid - supporting presentation
1620-1630 Genealogical Society of Ireland : ICV29 bid - supporting presentation
1630-1800 25th FIAV General Assembly

8.30-9.30 Full day excursion to Greenwich

9.30-13.30 Arrive Greenwich Park (Blackheath Gate) for a guided walking tour including Royal Observatory (Prime Meridian, Flamsteed House, great views), Old Royal Naval College (Painted Hall and Chapel), Cutty Sark
13.30-15.00 Lunch - Davy's Wine Bar, Greenwich
15.15-15.45 National Maritime Museum: 'Flags in the NMM: an introduction', a talk by Barbara Tomlinson, Curator Emeritus
15.45- Explore the NMM and Greenwich
Return travel: by river on Thames Clipper to Westminster Pier

0900-0930 Marcel van Westerhoven (The Netherlands) Polderboard flags - requiem for a dream
0930-1000 Bruce Berry (South Africa): The beloved green and white - (white) Rhodesia’s search for a unique symbol of identity
1000-1030 Stoyan Antonov (Bulgaria) : Flags of Bulgarian municipalities
1100-1130 Hervé Calvarin (France) : Doubts and certainties in vexillology
1130-1200 Jos Poels (UK) : Evolution of the Gambian flag
1200-1230 David Chkheidze (Georgia) : The flags of contemporary Georgia
1400-1430 Aleš Brožek (Czech Republic) : The survey of flags used by rowing clubs in the Czech Republic
1430-1500 Avelino Couceiro Rodriguez (Cuba) : Cuba and Puerto Rico: Two flags, two wings of a single bird
1500-1530 Patrice de La Condamine (France): Flags and the woman
1600-1630 Uroš Žižmund (Slovenia): Two flags, two proposals - a new system of national and rank flags of Slovenia
1630-1700 Stan Zamyatin (Ireland): County flags of Ireland
1700-1800 Flags of the World (FOTW) Meeting (continues at FiveSixEight, Beit Quadrangle)

0900-0930 Željko Heimer (Croatia) : Historical origins of contemporary Croatian municipal flags
0930-1000 Tony Burton (Australia) : Budgie smuggling and flag mayhem in Malaysia
1000-1030 Alain Raullet (France) : The third way of raising flags in Brittany
1100-1130 Roman Klimeš (Czech Republic) : Symbols of the Bohemian Olympic Committee 1912
1130-1200 Carlos Alberto Morales-Ramirez (Singapore) : Zoogeographic vexillology of North America - exploring endemism in sub-national flags
1200-1230 Nicolas Hugot (France) : A journey through constitutional vexillology
1400-1415 Xinfeng Zhao (China) : The flags of Genghis Khan
1415-1430 Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg (The Netherlands) : Five rings to bring them all - a presentation of the Olympic Flag
1430-1500 Attila István Szekeres (Romania) : The evolution of the Szekeler flag in the last four centuries
1530-1600 Rob Raeside (Canada) : Sub-national flags in Canada
1600-1610 Aleksander Hribovšek (Slovenia): The new Association flag and flags of the officers (Heraldry Society of Slovenia)
1610-1620 Theun Okkerse (The Netherlands): The obverse and reverse paradox
1620-1630 Vexillological Association of the State of Texas : ICV28, San Antonio 2019
1630 -1700 Closing Ceremony

1900-2200 Farewell Aperitif and Closing Banquet
Venue: Gladstone Library, Royal Horseguards Hotel, 1 Whitehall Ct, Westminster, London SW1A 2EJ


Based around the conference venue in the heart of Royal Kensington and Chelsea, the ICV 27 Companion Programme will explore the monuments, palaces, houses, gardens and hidden corners of this special corner of London. Highlights include the Royal Albert Hall - of Summer Proms fame; Kensington Palace - once home to Queen Victoria, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana, and now to Prince William, Duchess Kate and Prince Harry; Leighton House - a ‘private palace of art’ with an extraordinary Arab Hall; Hyde Park and the SerpentineKensington Gardens and the Albert Memorial; and lovely Holland Park with its stunning Kyoto Garden.

ICV27 - REGISTERED COMPANIONS, as on 12 June 2017.

Sukla Chakrabarti (India), Maria Esther Cruz (The Netherlands), Elizabeth Dangaard (Australia), Annie de La Condamine (France), Elisabeth Dreyer (Switzerland), Patrica Edwards (Canada), Deanna Hartvigsen (USA), Irina Herzfeld (Germany), Debbie Kaye (USA), Mike Kearney (UK - ICV27 Companion Programme Guide), Patricia Keegan-Poels (UK), Suzanne Kelly (Australia), Roman Križanič (Slovenia), Janice Lancaster (Canada), Lin-na Li (China), Lena Lindquist (Sweden), Ksenia Lomantsova (Russia), Karen Lowe (USA), Jenny Naughton (Australia), Michael Platoff (USA), Wendy Raeside (Canada), Barbara Ross (UK), Susanne Schmidt (Germany), Maggie Sumner (UK - ICV27 Companion Programme Organiser) 

Friday, December 30, 2016


National Flag of Tibet. A Priceless Gift From Sherap Gyatso of Lhadhan Chotrul Monlam Chenmo Trust, Tibetan Monastery. Sarnath.

 On 30 November 2016 I was presented a historic Tibetan Flag by Sherap Gyatso, purported to have been flown during the inauguration ceremony of the first Tibetan Monastery at Sarnath, Varanasi by the founder Gan Thupten Jungney (Gan Gose La), the most popular Tibetan Ranzen activist of his time, when His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama paid a visit to India to attend the 2500th Buddhist Jayanti Celebration in 1956.
14th Dalai Lama
The Snow Lion Tibetan Flag (Gangs Seng Dar Cha) was adopted by Thubten Gyatso - the 13th Dalai Lama  in 1916.
The region of Tibet maintained its autonomy until 1951 when, following the Battle of Chamdo, Tibet became incorporated into the People's Republic of China, and the previous Tibetan government was abolished in 1959 after a failed uprising.
China has made possessing the Tibetan flag illegal in Tibet since 1959. (Wikepedia).
 However the Tibetan Flag is widely in use by the Tibetan people seeking freedom from Chinese Rule. The Flag is also used by the Tibetan Government in Exile, based in Dharamsala, India and at all other Tibetan Monasteries. A Cinderella stamp issued to commemorate the centenary of the UPU in 1974.

  In a letter written to me in 1983, Guru Tharchen of the Tibetan Refugee Centre, Darjeeling narrated the symbolisms of the Flag as follows;
 The Snow Mountain: Symbolise the geographical feature of Tibet surrounded by lofty Himalayas. 
The Pair of Lions: the twin system of the Temporal and Spiritual power.
 The Wishing Gem: in the paws of the lions the rule of law based on the Law-principal of cause and effect underlying the Ten Golden Precept and the Sixteen Human-principals, which are the source of infinite benefit and peace. 
The Flaming Jewel: over the wishing gem,devotion of the Three Gems (Triratna) who are endowed with twenty four transcendental attributes. 
Two Flags in Red & Blue: unfailing support of the two guardian deities known as MAR NAG NYIE. 
The Twelve Stripes in Red & Blue: the twelve descendant of the six originals of Tibet.
 The Rising Sun: freedom, happiness and prosperity of the ideals of Buddhism.
The Five Coloured Banner: on the top of the mast, the victory of Golden Phodrang, the Central Government of Tibet, over all the spheres.
The Double Edged Sword: the Vajra and the Lotus, on top of the banner , the incessant appearance of the incarnations of the three of the three Budhisattavas: Avalokitesvara, Monjushri and Vajrapani.
The Un-bended and Un-ending Mast:  the justice of the law without fear or favour.
The Knot of the White Ribbon: the noble tradition of the Dharma.

 However, we have also a simplified version of the Symbolism of the flag.
1. The white snow mountain in the center depicts the land of the: great nation of Tibet.
2. The six Red rays emanating from the sun - the six original people of Tibet: the Se,Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru, and Ra.
3. The blue rays- the commitment to spiritual and secular rule.
4, The pair of snow-lions: the complete victory of the spiritual and secular government
5. The three sided yellow border: the flourishing of the Buddha's teachings. the fly-side without border :Tibet's openness to non-Buddhist thought
6. The raised jewel :Tibet's reverence for the three Precious Gems: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.