Last modified: 2015-03-30 by ivan sache
Keywords: reunion |
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Origin and meaning of the flag
Lö Mavéli flag - Image by Mark Sensen, 28 March 2003
This flag (photo, photo) was selected by the jury I have presided in Reunion on 1 March 2003. The designer of the winning proposal, Guy Pignolet, an engineer at CNES (Centre National d'Études Spatiales), from Sainte-Rose, and myself defined the size and colours. The Association Réunionnaise de Vexillologie (ARV) proposes to use it as the flag of the Region.
Guy Pignolet, who originally designed the flag in 1975, called it Lö Mahavéli, often shortened to Lö Mavéli, a name built on the Malgache word mahavel, "the beautiful country" and on the Tamoul word veli, "the morning star".
The meaning of the colours is "Red for the volcano and strength, blue for the sky and sweetness, yellow for the sun and clearness".
Michel Lupant & Ivan Sache, 14 June 2014
The contest, organized by the Association réunionaise
de vexillologie (ARV), presided by Vincent Défaud,
was closed on 31 January 2003 and had been launched one year
earlier (Clicanoo, 2 March 2003). Proposals in format A4 or A5 could be made on any kind of support.
Some of the rules of the contest were:
- the proposal shall not be identical to an existing national flag;
- logos and writings shall not appear on the proposal;
- a banner of arms is allowed;
- the darkest stripe shall be placed on the bottom of the flag if the flag is horizontally divided;
- the darkest stripe shall be placed along the hoist of the flag if the flag is vertically divided;
- a monochromous field with arms or a local symbol is allowed;
- the colours shall be constrasted in any case.
According to the ARV, the new flag shall not have any political or ethnical meaning but shall represent all the islanders.
There seems to be some local controversy about the original design of the flag. Joseph Varondin claims that the flag was indeed designed by a group of militants of the Mouvement des radicaux de gauche, himself included, and that Pignolet, who was not even member of the movement, was commissioned to officially register the design, which he did, but on his sole name [Le Quotidien, 31 December 2013].
Ivan Sache, 16 June 2014
Specifications for the flag
Flag construction sheet - Image by Mark Sensen, 28 March 2003
The colour specifications are:
Pantone CMYK (%) Red 032 0-100-100-0 Blue Process Blue 80-60-0-0 Yellow Process Yellow 0-0-100-0
Michel Lupant, 28 March 2003
Official use of the flag
On 28 September 2013, Cyril Hamilcaro, General Councillor of Saint-
Louis, sent a letter to the President of the Regional Council of Reunion, to the President of the General Council of Reunion, and to
the Mayors of the 24 municipalities of the Reunion, asking them to
officially hoist the flag designed by Guy Pignolet beside the flags of
France, of the European Union, and of the relevant institution [Info-Réunion, 28 September 2013].
The flag was officially hoisted on 7 December 2013 in Sainte-Rose (video), while it was already used in Le Port (photo). These were the only two municipalities of La Reunion that had "adopted" the flag. The flag was also used by local champions during sports events (photos); its design is featured on the 10 euro coin released on 20 September 2010 by the National Mint (image).
The issue re-emerged during the campaign for the municipal election
held in March 2014. A poll organized by a local TV channel revealed
that the issue was controversial: 47% of the voters approved the
proposal, while 49% rejected it (article). The 133 chief candidates were also asked to evaluate the proposal: 106 did not care answering, 10 answered they would adopt the flag if elected, 10 answered they would not, and 7 had no opinion on the issue (article).
The Municipal Council of Saint-Denis, the island's capital, decided on 26 April 2014 to hoist the flag [Clicanoo]. The Municipal Council of Saint-Philippe decided on 26 May 2014 to hoist the flag "during all kind of public and official acts", after 65% of the citizens had approved the proposals, while 36% had rejected it (but only 10% of the population cared answering) [Clicanoo].
Ivan Sache, 14 June 2014
Variants of the flag
Two variants of the flag - Images by Mark Sensen & Ivan Sache, 14 June 2014
he surfers Johanne Defay and Jorgann Couzinet, when celebrating their
victory in the French championship 2013, used a Mahavéli flag with the writing "974 REUNION" inscribed in white letters at the bottom of the
flag (photo, photo, photo, photo). "974" is the numeral code of the department of Reunion.
Yet another variant of the flag exists, with the numeral "974" written in black letters in the middle of the red triangle (photo).
Ivan Sache, 14 June 2014
Drapo la Rényon - Image by António Martins, 4 January 1999
The need of a cultural flag for Réunion was stressed in 1989 by the association MLK (Mouvman Lantant Koudmin) association. François
Saint-Omer / Franswa Sintomer, President of the MLK, drafted four
proposals with the five colours displayed differently. The final flag (article, photo)
was selected in a public survey organized from 1995 to 1997.
From February 1995 to February 1997, colours clearly symbolical of the parameters of the Reunion culture were defined (article):
- the red colour symbolizes the volcanic origin of the Reunion as well as the struggle of culture militants for freedom;
- the yellow colour symbolizes the sun;
- the black colour symbolizes the part of history related to slave ancestors and enslaving colonialist France in those times on the Reunion soil;
- the blue colour symbolizes the sky and the Indian Ocean;
- the green colour symbolizes the Reunion vegetation.
The blend of colours symbolizes the Reunionese rainbow of diversity within unity.
The cultural flag, seen in different social demonstrations in 2008,
was then renamed the flag of Reunion, a name eventually adopted, as
Drapo la Rényon in 2010 by the MLK.
The flag is supported by the Comité Drapo la Rényon, which established on 13 April 2014 a Committee of Vigilance and Release of Drapo la Rényon, aimed at protecting the use of the flag from commercial and political purposes. The committee is expected to become within six months an association for the protection of Drapo la Rényon [Clicanoo, 28 April 2014].
Thanh-Tâm Lê & Ivan Sache, 14 June 2014
Flag proposed by LPLP - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 25 September 2009
LPLP (Lorganizasion Popilèr po Libèr nout Péi, Popular Front for National Liberation) hold its inaugurating press conference on 6 July 2006. The party is a large front of independentist organizations, including Parti Indépendantiste Nasion rénioné (Independentist Party Reunion Nation), Mouvman antikolonialis rénioné (MAR, Anti-colonialist Reunion movement), Patriot rénioné (Reunion Patriot), Drapo rouz (Red Flag), and former members of Mouvman pou lindépandans Larénion (MIR, Movement for the Independence of Reunion).
LPLP fights for "a true decolonization of Reunion". Claiming the
Reunion still lives in a "neo-colonialist situation", LPLP will ask
the UN to list again Reunion among the countries to be decolonized.
The African Union still maintains Reunion on the list of "countries
and territories under foreign occupation".
On 26 June 2009, President Nicolas Sarkozy said that, as long as he would be President, "the question of independence of Reunion, that is of separation from France, will not be raised".
Bernard Grondin, the spokesman of LPLP, answered that "the only owners of our lands are our peoples".
The flag created by LPLP on 14 June 2008 for independent Reunion is horizontally divided red-yellow-green (2:1:1) with a yellow star in canton. Bernard Grondin explains on Zinfos974 the flag as follows:
Green symbolizes marronage, the marrons being the slaves who escaped and founded independent communities in the central mountains of the island; yellow symbolizes the working class; red symbolizes the period of slavery and engagisme (appointment of indentured servants).
According to the Fighting Peoples' Forum, LPLP will ask the local authorities to fly the flag of Reunion on all public buildings (with, of course, little chance of success, since the only official flag on the island is the French national flag).
Ivan Sache & Ilmãrs Bite, 23 September 2009
Flag proposed by the APDR - Image by Sani Ringayen, 17 August 1998
Till now we had some independentist flags but they have been remained marginal. We have created officialy in 1990 a non-political organization called Shankara Yuva Kendra, renamed Shri Anjaneya Sabha in 1996, and called now Association pour le Drapeau de la Réunion [APDR, Association for the Reunion flag].
Our aim is to promote the use of Reunion flag among the islanders
mainly. Beside the French colours:
- the blue colour symbolises the islanders of European origin, the Christian religion and the sea;
- the golden yellow colour represents the islanders of Indian origin, Hinduism and the sun;
- the red colour indicates the islanders of Chinese origin, their traditions and the volcano;
- the green colour symbolises the islanders of African origin, Islam and nature. All the islanders are living here in harmony, peace and tolerance symbolized by the white circle.
The Corsicans, the Breton people, etc., who come to be established
on the Island, brought with them their flags and do not hesitate to
travel with them, then "Reunionnais" decided to create an association
for the flag of La Réunion where all the communities would
find themselves represented. It is obvious that the politicians of right-hand side mainly do not see with a good eye the creation of our flag because they associate flag and independence. Our flag is not official yet but it will certainly be officialized on next 20 December, public holiday
here since 1981, commemorating the abolition of slavery. Even our
local dance, maloya, was forbidden in the past, even the
practice of another religion than Roman Catholicism was prohibited, even
the Creole language was not recognized. All that is over and we are
sure that our flag, which does not reject France, will be recognized.
For the moment, it develops in the towns and cultural
The flag was adopted by our association on 20 December 1996 and we do a basic work so that it will be accepted officially and hoisted beside the French and European colors.
Sani Ringayen (President of the APDR), 17 August 1998
Quoting an article from the local press (dated 4 September 1998) :
Creation of a flag for Reunion - Jean-Paul Virapoullé says "no"
In a message to the Mayor of Saint-André, the Association pour le Drapeau Réunionnais, housed 17, rue Patrice Lumumba in Le Port informs of the creation of a flag with colours blue-yellow-green-red-white to represent Réunion, "just like Brittany and Corsica have their". The association stipulates they have no political goal but that they regroup people that need a "strong symbol" to "really" represent the island.
"We are not against anybody but want to really exist, whatever the status of the island", the association indicates. The colours of the Reunion flag - with a white circle in the center - symbolize the different components of the population but also the link to France. In its message, the association explains that their flag will be visible everywhere on the island.
"This is for us a way of celebrating the 150th anniversary of [the abolishment of] slavery". They ask the Mayor of Saint-André to "reserve the best welcome" to this flag, to "not hesitate to raise it with pride but without arrogance", to "have it freely circulated", to "manufacture" it when sold out.
The answer of Jean-Paul Virapoullé is clear:
"I am firmly opposed to the existence of a flag for Reunion. Your enterprise does not have my approval". In his answer, he indicates that "this banner is a symbol of the adhesion to the autonomist cause". He affirms that one should show oneself to be proud of the Tricolore flag that has gone around the world with the name, the glory and the liberty of the Motherland.
He also announced that he will oppose to the presence of the Reunion flag in the official celebrations at Saint-André.
Herman de Waël, 18 October 1998
The Reunion flag was used by demonstrating students last week in Saint-Denis, the capital of the island. It is worn now by hundreds of people (locals and tourists) on t-shirts. Hundreds of flags will be used on 20 December, our "National Day" of Slavery Abolition. On the same period, it will be flown officially in Nantes (France) during the inauguration of a monument dedicated to the slaves.
Sani Ringayen, 2 November 1998