Dervish State, attributed c. 1910, likely erroneous
Wikipedia has for some time identified this as the flag of the “Dervish State”, the movement led by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan that fought against British and Italian imperialism in Somalia. The blog Flag Hagz did a post on it the other day which got me thinking: where did this image actually come from? It’s not on any reputable vexillology site I’m aware of.
The svg was drawn by a user named “Fallschirmjäger”, who based it on a jpg by the user “Scoobycentric”. The jpg was in turn based on an image from the Weekly Italian news magazine La Tribuna illustrata,. After a bit of search I believe I’ve found the original source, and oh man what a mess.
Firstly, Scoobycentric clearly misread the image. The flag in that picture is green, not teal. And the Wikipedia image is quite a bit more elongated than the squarish flag in the drawing. Secondly, there’s no indication of what this flag is actually supposed to be. Is it some kind of state flag? A religious flag? A personal standard? A battle flag? A random banner of no particular significance? From the context it could be any of these.
But most importantly, this is a drawing, one that was obviously exaggerated for dramatic effect. The artist may have indeed seen a flag that looks like this, but they could have also been misremembering an entirely different flag, or the whole thing could have just been a flight of fancy. For all we know they weren’t even in Somalia at all!
Misattributions like this happen all the time, especially on free encyclopedias that anyone can edit. And once these errors happen, they tend to be sticky. I’d wager people will be seeing this thing cropping up in infoboxes for quite some time.