Maori Flag designer elated at the possibility of our flag flying high

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The last surviving member of the trio who designed the tino rangatiratanga flag was flying high yesterday after finding out it will appear on the Auckland Harbour Bridge from next year. In 2007, activist group Te Ata Tino Toa asked Transit to fly it on Waitangi Day, but the agency declined.

Public campaigning has kept the issue alive since then and this year Prime Minister John Key asked the Maori Party to consult widely on the issue. Linda Munn, 46, created the flag with Hiraina Marsden and Jan Smith in 1989 and entered it in a competition run by the Northland protest group Te Kawariki.

Those women would have loved the move, Ms Munn said. “I was the artist-in-residence and I did what they told me,” she joked.

The Tauranga artist had many wellwishers contacting her yesterday but she hasn’t had a flag for 20 years.

“I actually haven’t had one since the first six we created, they were all swiped – I think they’re collector’s items now. I think I’ve got a T-shirt I can dust off somewhere.

Behind that flag is a whole nation of people, it is sort of humbling. It’s a great leap for Maori but no one else should be compromised because of it. It’s about our taonga being flown side by side with the other taonga [the New Zealand flag]. We can’t forget that our koros [grandfathers] went to war under it. That flag shouldn’t be disrespected.”

When the bridge controversy erupted she felt it was a bit premature that Te Ata Tino Toa had taken it on themselves to decide for Maori that the tino rangatiratanga ensign represented them. “We needed to ask each other, because a lot of Maori don’t like the flag. We’ve done that now.”

Giving Maori a voice was the flag’s purpose and it annoys her that in two decades it has been usurped by some groups who remain angry with the world, Ms Munn said.

“We used it on passive hikoi. Tino rangatiratanga is about empowerment, not walking around with a big chip on your shoulder.

“I’ve seen it used in situations where the underlying theme is of wanting to go and bash Pakeha. We never wanted anything to do with violence.”

Still, she’s proud that the flag will get a new lease of life – it’s always given her the “warm fuzzies”, she said. “Especially when you’re overseas, it’s good to feel you belong to a place.

The tino rangatiratanga flag is a symbol for another generation. It’s funny how symbols bring people together and I hope that people will see it in a positive light.”

It is understood 80 per cent of Maori who attended hui throughout the country backed the flag. As well as the harbour bridge, it could also fly from more government buildings and Premier House, the Prime Minister’s Wellington residence. A spokeswoman for Mr Key said the issue was still to go before the Cabinet.

Source: NZ Herald: Yvonne Tahana | Email Yvonne

Background: Tino Rangatiratanga

Designed in 1990 by Hiraina Marsden, Jan Smith and Linda Munn, this was the winning design in a national contest to find a Maori flag.

The symbolism of the flag is as follows:

  • The black represents Te Korekore or the realm of potential being. It represents the long darkness from which the earth emerged, as well as signifying Rangi the heavens, a male, formless, floating and passive force.
  • The red represents Te Whei Ao, the coming into being. It symbolises Papatuanuku, the earth mother, the sustainer of all living things, both the land and active forces.
  • The white represents Te Ao Marama, the realm of being and light. It symbolises the physical world, purity, harmony, enlightenment and balance.
  • The koru is symbolic of a curling fern frond, representing the unfolding of new life, hope for the future and the process of renewal.

Linda Munn

LindaMunnC
Artwork by Linda Munn

Whaea Linda is an artist and designer based in Tauranga and has exhibited throughout Aotearoa.

2 COMMENTS

  1. What a wonderful tribute

    Although I am living overseas I am very proud to know Maori have a voice

    A great day for Maori and and a better day for wahine Maori

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