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Recognising a National Māori Flag

The Māori Flag (the Tino Rangatiratanga Flag)

The Tino Rangatiratanga Flag

In 1989 a competition was run by a group named Te Kawariki to design a national Māori flag. Most of the entries however, were considered inappropriate because they were designed around a bi-racial rather than a specific Māori theme.

The only flag that met the criteria of recognising Māori history, expressing a Māori purpose and using a Māori design, was one designed by - Hiraina Marsden, Jan Dobson and Linda Munn. Another member of Te Kawariki, Walter Erstich, gave the explanation to the design.

After some revision by other members of Te Kawariki, the final version was eventually approved as the winner of the competition and unveiled as the national Māori flag, at Waitangi, on Waitangi Day 1990. It has since become known as the ‘Tino Rangatiratanga’ flag.

Explanation of design:

Black represents Te Korekore, the realm of potential, the heavens, the long darkness from which the world emerged. Black also represents the male element - formless, floating and passive.

White represents Te Ao Mārama the realm of being, the world of light, the physical world. White also symbolises purity, harmony enlightenment, and balance.

Red represents Te Whei Ao, the realm of coming into being. Red also represents active, lashing, southern, falling, emergence, forest, land, and gestation. Red is the female element, Papatuanuku, the earth mother, the sustainer of all living things. Red is also the colour of earth from which the first human was made.

The Koru (the curling frond shape) represents the unfolding of new life, rebirth, continuity, renewal and hope for the future.

Last modified: 14/07/2009