The national flag of the Solomon Islands was officially adopted on November 18, 1977, eight months before the Pacific archipelago was granted independence from Britain. Although Britain had held the islands as a protectorate since 1893, there was little focused movement for independence. Changing attitudes in Britain, and a world recession, led to talk of autonomy in the early 1970s. In 1975 nearby Papua New Guinea was granted independence, and the same year Solomon Island officials declared an open competition for submitting an original flag design.
Today’s flag depicts an upper left triangle of blue with five white stars in the shape of an X, a yellow stripe running diagonally from lower left to upper right, and a lower right triangle of green. The blue represents water, particularly the surrounding ocean, while the green represents the land and its fertility. The yellow of the bisecting strip represents sunshine.
The five stars were originally meant to represent the five districts, but following World War II these were reduced to four, then seven districts, and, later, into nine. It was decided to keep the flag as it was, however, and by then it became customary to regard the five stars as representing the five island groups – though the Solomons are now regarded as six major island groups. In recent years an Act of Parliament was recommended to safeguard the country’s flag against any changes.
In fact, the original design of the Solomon Islands flag was quite different. The design first chosen featured a blue field with a yellow circle, surrounded by a chain, with a frigate bird at the center. As this bird was a symbol of only one of the nation’s districts, it was subsequently rejected. Next came a simple black chain in the form of an ellipse, on a red background. The designer, a native islander, declared that the black chain represented “blackbirding”, a reference to past practices of coercing and even kidnapping natives into forced labor. The red represented spilled blood.
When the new design and its meaning hit national newspapers, it created immediate controversy. The now-familiar flag was adopted in its place. Ironically, it was the work of a New Zealand artist studying at the local King George VI School. While there was some quibbling over the colors that should be used, it was eventually decided to go with the flag we see today.