1. Mali, 1959-1961

    The first modern state to bear the name Mali was the Mali Federation, a union of French Soudan and Senegal. Senegal broke away shortly after the union gained independence in 1960 and it replaced the stick figure with a green star. The Soudanese Republic kept the old flag and on 22 September 1960 it officially exited the moribund Federation and changed its name to the Republic of Mali.

    In 1961, the black kanaga effigy in the centre of the flag was removed at the insistence of Muslim fundamentalists, who objected to having a depiction of the human form on the national flag. This left it with a flag that was not only super similar to Guinea’s, but actually identical to one that had just been adopted by the soon-to-be-independent Rwanda

     
  2. Bamileke National Movement, reported circa 1996

    This is a pretty slick flag, but comments on Wikipedia from actual Bamileke people make me think it may not actually exist. Or at least, it may not be as common as a google image search for “Bamileke flag” would suggest.

     
  3. Riograndense Republic

    The hilariously-named “Ragamuffin War” started on 20 September 1835. It began as an anti-tax revolt among the gauchos of Rio Grande do Sul, and within a year the province had declared itself independent from Brazil. The new country got some recognition from Uruguay but had little support elsewhere. It was joined by the neighbouring Juliana Republic in 1839 but that state collapsed in a matter of months. In 1845 the rebels were defeated and Brazil resumed control of the province.

    (designer: Tito Livio Zambeccari)

     
  4. Aleppo, 1920-1924

    The French mandate in Syria produced some questionable flag design, and for my money the State of Aleppo’s flag was the worst of the bunch. The dinky French flag in the corner is totally unbalanced on the big empty field, and the gold stars on white make for a terrible colour scheme. This flag was thankfully abolished when Damascus and Aleppo were reunited.

     
  5. Central America, 1825-1838

    September 15 is Independence Day in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. And if you’ve ever wondered why all those countries have such similar looking flags, it’s because they were all once part of the same country. The Federal Republic of Central America only lasted for 15 years, but all five successor states kept using the blue-white-blue tricolour. 

    There were tweaks of course, but they were usually minimal. El Salvador and Nicaragua’s flags are nearly indistinguishable from each other and from the original flag. They both even still say “America Central” on them. Meanwhile Honduras literally just kept flying the old Central American flag for another 30 years. Today Costa Rica’s is the most different; they added a big red stripe during the Revolutions of 1848.

    (designer: Louis-Michel Aury)

     
  6. Nordfriesland, since 1972

    The three symbols on the sails represent the three districts that were merged to form Nordfiresland in 1970: a fish for Südtondern, a plough for Husum, and a bull’s head for Eiderstedt.

    I love the look of this flag. Feels very dynamic and triumphant for some reason.

    (designer: Wilhelm Horst Lippert)

     
  7. Catalonia

    The Catalan senyera is one of the oldest national symbols in Europe, although not one that’s been used continuously for its entire history. It was probably created some time in the 12th or 11th centuries in the County of Barcelona, and from there it spread to the whole Crown of Aragon. In addition to Catalonia, the alternating red and yellow bars appear on the flags of Aragon, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands.

    Independence advocates fly a version of this flag witah a blue triangle and white star at the hoist called the estelada. 

     
  8. Macedonia, 1995 proposals

    When Macedonia had to change its flag in 1995, the task of designing it fell to artist Miroslav Grčev. The country was no longer allowed to use the Vergina Sun symbol, but the government still wanted to have a red and yellow flag with a sun in the centre. Grčev looked to other flags with the sun on them and found they fit into four categores: plain circles like on the flag of Japan (top), discs surrounded by rings of triangles like on the flag of Taiwan (middle), more ornate suns with alternating straight and curvy rays like on the flag of Argentina (bottom), and radial rays like on the flag of Arizona. That fourth category was the one that ended up being used on the national flag.

    The actual proposal for that flag, by the way, looked somewhat different than what was eventually adopted. Rather than being at a 1:2 ratio, Grčev’s final version was at the golden ratio (around 1:1.618), and there was no separation between the disc and the rays. That would have been a bit of an improvement, I think. Still, the flag as it stands is pretty solid, especially given all the constraints.

    (designer: Miroslav Grčev)

     
  9. Sulawesi, 1953 proposal

    This flag was flown by guerillas in Southwest Sulawesi under the leadership of Kahar Muzakkar, who declared the whole island to be a part of the “Islamic State of Indonesia” on 7 August 1953. Not sure what the three stars mean, but it’s interesting to note that the same thing happened in Aceh a month later, and the rebels there flew a green flag with a white crescent and four stars. Maybe it was some kind of number of provinces thing?

    Modern separatists use flags with the distinctive outline of the island.

     
  10. Bonaire, since 1981

    Bonaire’s Flag Day is September 6, even though the flag was adopted on December 11. Not sure how that happened but whatever. The blue, white, and yellow parts of the flag represent the sea, sky, and sun respectively. The six points on the star represent six regions (villages?) of the island, and it lies at the centre of a compass to represent people who have come there to Bonaire from around the world.

    There are some pictures from last year’s celebration on this blog.

     
  11. Portland, since 2002

    Douglas Lynch designed this flag all the way back in 1969, but his vision was only fully realized recently. The version adopted in 1969 had the city seal added on a blue field in the top left corner against the designer’s wishes. He was eventually able to convince the city to go back to his original design in 2002.

    The green field represents the forests of Oregon, the yellow lines represent wealth and agriculture, and the blue lines represent the Willamette and Columbia Rivers with a star where they meet for the city of Portland itself. A lot of times when people are assigning meanings to flags they make sure and cover every colour, but the white lines apparently have no meaning. They’re just there to make it look better.

    (designer: Douglas Lynch)

     
  12. San Marino, since 1862

    According to legend, San Marino was founded on 3 September 301. The Sammarinese flag is quite a bit younger. The most recent rendering of the coat of arms was only adopted in 2011, replacing an earlier version which had been used since 1862. The new design has cleaner, thicker lines and a defined set of twelve colours.

     
  13. Kyrgyzstan, since 1992

    The crossed lines on the flag are a tündük, which is the top part of a Kyrgyz yurt. I’m not 100% positive but I believe that makes this the world’s first and only yurt-based flag.

    As far as post-Soviet flag design goes this is one of the better examples. Apparently the flag was originally supposed to be blue and white, but it was thrown out because in some parts of southern Kyrgyzstan blue is the colour of mourning, and southern MPs wanted to lodge a protest against the all-northern composition of the flag design group. In the end the old Communist red and yellow won out. Would have looked better the other way but still an excellent symbol.

    Apparently there was another proposal for a flag that had “blue, white, orange and green” with the tunduk in the top right corner. How exactly that would have worked I don’t know

    (designers: Edil Aidarbekov, Bekbosun Zhaichybekov, Sabyr Iptarov, Zhusup Matayev, Mamatbek Sydykov)

     
  14. President of Equatorial Guinea, 1986 proposal

    Equatorial Guinea has never had a presidential standard, but a couple of them were floated in the 1980s. The flag has the silk-cotton tree from the coat of arms, with three stars to represent President Obiang Nguema’s colonel rank.

    (designers: Tomas Rodriguez and Antonio Manzano)

     
  15. Saint Kitts and Nevis Coast Guard, since 1967?

    St. Kitts has a designated “naval ensign”, but no navy per se. The coast guard flies it instead, and even then only on the two largest of its five vessels. So I guess that means there are only two of these flags flying in the world?

    The design is on the model of the British white ensign: White field, red cross, and the national flag in the top left quadrant. This stretches the national flag out to a kind of ridiculous 4:9 ratio, which kind of messes up the star placement.