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Wiphala: Dual state flag of Bolivia

Last modified: 2017-12-09 by antónio martins
Keywords: wiphala | dual flag | pantone |
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image by Kjell Roll Elgsaas and António Martins, 06 Oct 2017

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The squared rainbow flags (wiphala) associated with the Aymara and Inca people came to be used as a symbol of the indigenous population in Bolivia. In particular, they were used in political movements which led to the election of Evo Morales as president in 2005.

When the country’s new constitution was adopted in 2009, «the Wiphala» was included as one of the national symbols, along with the tricolour flag, the coat of arms and other non-flag symbols. This was followed by Decreto Supremo 241 on 5 August 2009, which set out the symbols and their use.

The Wiphala is defined in the same pattern as the Qullu Suyu Wiphala, and along with the national tricolour, is prescribed to be flown at government buildings and at private and public educational insitutions. Because of this prescription, the tricolour and the wiphala have been called «dual flags» of Bolivia.
Jonathan Dixon, 25 Sep 2016

The wiphala (Quechua [Aymara, ed.] for "flag") in question is the flag of one of the four Inca suyu (= quadrants, provinces), the one usually associated with modern Bolivia: Qulla Suyu, the south or southeastern Inca province/quadrant.
António Martins, 02 Nov 2016

The current Head of State of Bolivia, Evo Morales, uses the flag of the Inca Empire [the Qulla Suyu flag] as a State flag on most official events.
Esteban Rivera, 31 Jul 2016

Recently, Bolivia changed its naval ensign. Now, this ensign bear in the canton two flags: the bolivian one and the whipala.
Jaume Ollé, 01 Nov 2016


Color shades

The decree (Chapter II §4 “The Wiphala”, with illustrations; PDF, HTML) gives symbolism for each of the colours, sets out sizes for official flags (245 by 245 cm flying, 24.5 by 24.5 cm for a car or desktop flag), and Pantone codes for the colours:

  • ~RGB Red 485C
  • ~RGB Orange 165C
  • ~RGB Yellow P-CVU
  • ~RGB Green 356C
  • ~RGB Blue 286C
  • ~RGB Violet 266C
Jonathan Dixon, 25 Sep 2016

The image above was modified to show RGB approximates of these PMS codes. However, there’s the usual matter of tring to 2nd guess the nature of the exact colorimetric specification — is it meant as a codification of established practice, or a novel prescription? And then there’s the matter of how savvy about color specifications are the people responsible for the legal prescription. And, on top of that, the unavoidable, unchanging fact that flags are made of cloth or printed on paper, made of subtractive pigments, while on a display screen flag representations are shown by means of pixels colored by addition of luminous, translucent hues: Trying to find the exact RGB equivalent to, say, PMS yellow CVU, is a wild goose chase, and insist that it must be RGB:FEDF00 and not, say, RGB:FFDD00 is misguided (to put it mildly).

Then comes vexillological reality, and our need and goal of presenting a set of images meant to be shown along each other. In the case of Bolivian national flags, the current law (2009) defines PMS values also for the national flag (matching what was given in the 2004 law) and the values for green, yellow, and red are the same for those on the wiphala (introduced by the 2009 law). So far so good (these two flags should share matching colors), but both red and green are significantly darker than usual (intentional?, meaningful?), according to the PMS catalog, and yet the 2004 law was illustrated with diagrams showing much lighter shades… (Lets not forget that the same designer who chose these PMS codes is likely the same “expert” who thinks that the ratios 7,5:11 and 200:300 are the same…)

António Martins, 06 Oct 2017


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