The upper portion of the official flag representing the island nation of Kiribati is red and sports a gold bird, known as a frigatebird, flying over a rising sun which is set in the central portion of the design. The lower portion of the flag is made up of three alternating blue and white wavy stripes. This flag was adopted on July 12, 1979. The country’s national flag is an armorial banner which means that it has the same design as that of Kiribati’s official coat of arms.

The wavy blue and white stripes which comprise the bottom half of Kiribati’s flag represent the Pacific Ocean as well as referencing the three island groups; Phoenix, Gilbert, and Line Islands. The sun’s depiction on the flag includes seventeen rays which symbolize the former Ocean Island of Banaba as well as the sixteen Gilbert Islands. The frigatebird is a seabird species native to tropical and subtropical ocean environments. Its presence on the flag is thought to represent naval strength and power.

Kiribati’s flag features a badge designed by Sir Arthur Grimble in 1932. Grimble was a British writer and expert on the indigenous people of Kiribati and their native myths and oral traditions. Grimble initially designed the distinctive coat of arms for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (Kiribati and Tuvalu) which at that time were British colonies. Kiribati’s coat of arms, which is identical to that of the image on its flag, originated in the year 1937 when it was incorporated into the traditional British Blue Ensign which symbolized Kiribati’s status as a British colony.

Just prior to Kiribati gaining its independence in 1979 a competition was held to pick a new flag. A design which included Kiribati’s coat of arms was submitted to the College of Arms, also known as the College of Heralds. This historic organization presides over affairs relating to heraldry, pedigrees, and the coats of arms. Members of the College proposed a number of changes to the design such as enlarging the bird and sun but the local Kiribati population insisted on keeping the original design which is featured on the coat of arms.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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