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Inca subdivisions’ flags (Western South America)

Last modified: 2017-12-09 by antónio martins
Keywords: suyu | hanan | urin | lama | squares: 49 | sun (white) | phuytu phuytu tika |
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See also:

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Presentation

According to most sources, the square flags in this 7×7-squares pattern stand for each of the four sections of the Inca Empire, the Inca flag being the Kapaq Unancha, a rectangular flag with seven stripes.
António Martins, 20 Dec 2005

The chequered flags, of which there are four versions, are usually described as “subnational” flags of the Inca Empire, or at least as modern re-creations standing for each of its four quarters.
António Martins, 16 Aug 2005

The Qhishwa-Aymara (Quechua-Aymara in Spanish) have four flags, all square, as a symbol of equality. These flags have been adopted for the indigenous organizations of the Qhishwa-Aymara Indians (called a whipala (= banner) in Quechua [Aymara, ed.] language).
Jaume Ollé, 1997

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Pair flags

Concerning the the Inca custom of pairing dual flags, was reported plain square flags for each of the four 7×7 squares flags (in the color of the diagonal line of squares).
António Martins, 02 Nov 2016

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History

Are these 7×7 squares square flags genuinely Inca, or a modern day invention?
António Martins, 20 Dec 2005

These flags are based in designs probably 2000 years old.
Jaume Ollé, 1997

This Kara Chukiwanka’s article [qch9X] quotes also an interesting report (referenced as «Razzini: 193» with no bibl. ref.), by researchers Portugal Zamora and Ibarra Grasso (apparently bona fide archeologists / historians), 1957: «Una de las pictografías consiste en una figura compuesta por motivos escalonados en cuyo centro se ve una separación o línea eje que divide el motivo en dos porciones iguales, posiblemente para la mentalidad actual de los indígenas lugareños, se encuentra en este dibujo un parecido con la bandera del Kollasuyu que esta compuesta por una serie de cuadrilateros, de distintos colores, muy semejante en su composición gráfica a un tablero de ajedrez. En aymara o Kolla, se llama Wip’ala». This seems to describe the chakana symbol with moon ("◐") on the center, and compares it to the checkered Kollasuyu flag (thus reported as common place already in 1957).
António Martins, 03 Jun 2008

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Design

These four 7×7 squares square flags are hard to tell apart at a distance; their interchangeable use is likely.
António Martins, 20 Dec 2005

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Square shape

Kara Chukiwanka’s article [qch9X] repeats that the square shape of these flags reflects the dual and quaternary phisolophy embodied in so many aspects of Inca life (four regions grouped in two pairs, et c.) — a statement also found in [mmfXX] and other sources, which however does not explain why the wiphala is so often seen in rectangular format.
António Martins, 03 Jun 2008

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Pattern

All four suyu wiphalas can be made by trimming from the same basic pattern at different offsets.
António Martins, 30 Oct 2017

The best way to tell them apart is by the color of the diagonal string of squares:
António Martins, 16 Aug 2005

The full spectrum used is green - blue - purple - red - orange - yellow - white (and again green et c.) What distiguishes each of these flags from the other three is the diagonal it is centered on, as all four flags are just differently “framed” swatches of the same basic, endless pattern: Qulla Suyu’s diagonal is white, Chinchay Suyu’s is red, Anti Suyu’s is green, and Kunti Suyu’s is yellow.
António Martins, 02 Nov 2016

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Other Inca local flags

The local flags are single coloured square flags. The colours used are red, orange, yellow, white, green, purple, blue, light blue, pink, dark red, coffee, lead, ochre, black, and light green. The symbolism of the colors is red for earth, orange for society and culture, yellow for energy, white for time, green for economy, blue for space, and purple for policy.
Jaume Ollé, 1997

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Example

[flag]
image by Jaume Ollé, 20 May 2007

Image from the article [mmfXX], exemplefying an Inca local flag: Red square with a golden lama.
António Martins, 20 May 2007

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Other similar flags

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Phuytu phuytu tika wiphala

[flag]
image by António Martins, 03 Jun 2008

In Kara Chukiwanka’s article [qch9X] this flag is presented as «P’uytu P’uytu Tika Wip’ala», or checkered flag, one of the three flags of the Wiñaymarka culture. It is a square white flag with four nine-square chakanas on each quadrant — red, green, purple and yellow (clockwise from the upper hoist) — limited by diagonal strings of black squares (the whole fittable to a 13×13 grid) and on the center a white sun disc with 12 simple rays, thinly lined in black.
António Martins, 03 Jun 2008

These four elements may correspond to the four quarters of the empire, but the not all colors match: yellow (Qunti Suyu), red (Chinchay Suyu) and green (Anti Suyu) are okay, but Qulla Suyu’s color is white, not purple. (Compare with the quartered flag with all expected colors, reported to be the pair flag of the seven-stripe Inca flag.)
António Martins, 03 Jun 2008

About this flag Kara Chukiwanka’s article [qch9X] suggests that it may be related to the Southern Cross («Chakana a Qarwa Nayra»), reports its presence carved in the Tihuanaco / «Tiwanaku» ruins and used in ceramics and weavings (but as a flag, or just a pattern?).
António Martins, 03 Jun 2008

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11×11 blue-diagonal flag

[flag]
image by António Martins, 30 Oct 2017

On photos (here and here) of a MAS (Bolivian party) rally in early 2017, among a few Bolivian tricolors, many party flags, and a couple of regular 7×7 yellow-diagonal (Qulla Suyu) whiphalas, we can see two unusual checkered flags: This one and a 11×11 checkered flag in the well-known suyu wiphala pattern, showing a blue ascending diagonal. This could be made from a mistrimmed endless-pattern cloth. The blue diagonal is one of the three out of seven that is not used to symbolize any of the four suyu regions/“quadrants” (the other unused ones are purple and orange).
António Martins, 30 Oct 2017

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