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

Last modified: 2003-02-08 by sam lockton
Keywords: tuvalu | oceania | star | union jack | ellice islands | gilbert islands |
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The 1997 (current) flag

[Tuvalu flag]
by Zeljko Heimer

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

In this page:

See also:

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

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

State Flag

[Tuvalu state flag]
by Ivan Sache

 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

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 ( from the office of the Prime Minister in Vaiaku (capital on the island Funafuti).

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.

(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 1995-1997 flag

[Tuvalu flag 1995-97]
by Zeljko Heimer

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 1978-1995 flag

[1978-1995 Tuvalu flag]
by Zeljko 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]
Zeljko 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