A vexillological mystery in Nuku'alofa
As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a flag geek. My love for abstract painting and my weakness for political sloganeering are both indulged by vexillology, which is an art that values brusque communication as much as elegant design.
Back in February I criticised antipodean liberals for their convoluted flag designs, and suggested that a simple banner was a good banner. But a mysterious flag I recently discovered attached to the rundown Maseia (that is, Messiah) Plaza in downtown Nuku'alofa makes me wonder whether simplicity is always such a good thing. The flag in question, which was one of four obscure ensigns being muscled by a humid wind on a late Saturday afternoon, consists of a single green stripe on a plain white background (click on the photo to enlarge it).
There are a number of very stylish flags dominated by lone horizontal lines - on another weekend walk through Nuku'alofa I spotted a woman wearing a T shirt emblazoned with the words Proud to be Nauruan, and dominated by the beautiful flag of that betrayed and damaged nation - but I can't, offhand, think of a banner where the line sits on a background so drained of colour.
I was about to leave the basilica behind when a voice called from the little garden at its rear. The bishop of Nuku'alofa wanted me to join him and a dozen or so of his parishioners around the kava bowl. "We're getting ready for the service tomorrow" he explained, as he sat in front of a cup of kava and a tall glass of beer. After we'd talked about the new pope, and wondered whether his southern hemisphere heritage might make him sensitive to the prolems of South Pacific nations like Tonga, I asked the bishop about the meaning of the strange banner flying on the Maseia Plaza. "I think it means...approximately...bullshit" he replied, as his congregation laughed.
Can anyone do better than the good bishop, and explain what odd piece of the globe the flag flying over Maseia Plaza might represent?
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]