Monday, September 14, 2015


In the current Aotearoa New Zealand change the flag debate; this flag (above), the so called "Red Peak Flag" is a design that has gained some traction. Apparently 50,000 supporters have signed a petition asking that it be included in the final 4 designs that were chosen from a long list of 40 contenders. Personally I think it is an appalling design, but it does have the backing of noted artist and cartoonist Dick Frizzel and other notaries. There is a call now for this design to be included with the other 4 shortlisted designs for the final vote. There is a possibility that this may happen, except that both major NZ political parties are using the flags inclusion to play 'Dog in the Manger' politics, the nature of which is simply too tiresome and convoluted to comment on here.

Despite my personal dislike of the 'Red Peak' flag design, its symbolism is important because it does tell a distinctly Aotearoa New Zealand story. Designer Aaron Dustin says his design "Evokes the Maori myth of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, the sky father and earth mother who lie locked together." The problem is that this story has been flying on another flag for 25 years.

In my opinion, it could be argued that to use the 'Red Peak' flag as a vehicle for the Maori creation myth is another example of neo colonialism, especially when there is a pre existing flag that tells exactly the same story, was created by a northern Maori group in 1989 and contains symbolism that explains the myth in a more substantial way. Also to my aesthetic sense the curves and symmetry of its design leaves the toy shop jigsaw puzzle likeness of  the 'Red Peak' design far behind in every aspect.

The full story of this flags symbolism is told in its colours and forms:
BLACK represents Te Korekore (the realm of potential being). It thus symbolises the long darkness from which the earth emerged, as well as signifying Rangi - the heavens, a male, formless, floating, passive force.

WHITE represents Te Ao Marama (the realm of being and light). It symbolises the physical world, purity, harmony, enlightenment and balance.
The spiral-like KORU, symbolic of a curling fern frond, represents the unfolding of new life, hope for the future and the process of renewal.
          RED represents Te Whei Ao (coming into being). It symbolises Papatuanuku, the earth-
          mother the sustainer of all living things, and thus both the land and active forces.

As a whole, the design represents the balance of the forces of nature, masculine and feminine, active and passive, potential and physical, air and earth. It can also be interpreted as symbolising the white cloud rolling across the face of the land, AOTEAROA, which is the Maori name for New Zealand,

The only problem with this flag created by the protest group Te Kawariki in 1989 is that it is the "Tino Rangatiratanga" (Maori sovereignty) flag, which makes this choice highly controversial --- But if it was up to me! This would be my choice.


Paul Mullings said...

Nicely put, I was beginning to think it was just me that thought the "Red Peak" was an abomination 👍

Alden Smith said...

Paul, I am glad you agree. I also was thinking that maybe there was something wrong with my sensibilities or that I was missing something in this Red Peak design.

I am now wondering if the traction this flag has generated represents a general protest vote against the whole shambles and ill feeling that this issue is producing. I feel the political 'point scoring' that is happening at the moment on both sides of the house in Parliament belittles something that if managed in a climate of consensus could produce something we could all be proud of.