Designer relives Fiji flag competition

A FEW months after her husband was offered a new post in Fiji in 1970, the flag competition was introduced where interested candidates were given a chance to design and give in their ideas on how they wanted the Fiji flag to look.

As for Tessa Mackenzie, she was 36 years old at that time and was a volunteer teacher at Veiuto Primary School.

She said the decision to take part in the flag competition arose after her two sons — eight-year-old Robert and her youngest son Christopher who was only five at that time — begged their mother if they could also participate in the flag competition.

Mrs Mackenzie said this was where the whole creativity and the desire to design the flag started.

“When it came to the design of the flag, it was actually going quite fast. Quite a lot of people entered the competition,” she recalled.

“While making the flag, my husband and I realised that whatever we make, it should be relevant for everybody because for me, it was something that was meaningful and relevant for everybody so my husband (Murray Mackenzie) went and consulted other people on how we could design our flag and use some of their ideas.”

She said the Fiji flag had connections with Great Britain.

“The coat of arms has been with us for about 100 years now and the Government use it on every document and I don’t think we have to take the whole of it or the whole thing away.”

She said there had been also some misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the flag.

“The shield is a heroic design and you have to conform to certain rules and regulations. We designed something that consults with heroic rules.

“The three agricultural products, people use them everyday — coconut, banana, sugar and they are (part of our) economy.

“Though we can fall back on them always. When I designed the flag, bananas were a great export.

“The dove, that was a nice link giving the iTaukei, the Fijian community, just a little something special for them.

“We did not really design that but we felt that yes, this is appropriate. As for the lion, it’s not a British Lion, there’s no lion in Britain. It’s a heraldic lion and it’s a symbol of power.

“The pale blue represents the ocean, the Pacific Ocean.

“If they are going to change it, I just hope that they are going to change it to something suitable and let’s not be too much like other people’s flag because when you look at most of the flags in the world, so many of them are messy.”

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