What Do the Colors on the South African Flag Mean?

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Individually the six colors of the South African flag have no meaning, but black, yellow and green stand for the African National Congress, whereas red, white and blue represent colonial European flags and those of historical Boer republics. The “Y” shape indicates South Africa’s diversity and unity converging to a single point as one country.

Former meanings of the flag’s colors include red for bloodshed, green for fertile land, black for the black people, blue for open skies, white for European people and yellow represents resources such as gold, according to WorldFlags101.com. The colors are amalgamations of previous banners flown in South Africa.

Official shades for the flag are spectrum green, blue black, national flag white, gold yellow, chili red and national flag blue, according to the South African consulate. The concept for the South African flag traces its roots to the country’s coat of arms, which states “!ke e:/xarra //ke,” a Khoisan phrase meaning “diverse people unite.”

The flag was designed in 1994 by Fred Brownell with one week’s notice, and the colors were first flown April 27, 1994, when the country held its first free elections. Before the flag was hoisted, Nelson Mandela approved Brownell’s design even though Mandela was in South Africa and Brownell was at a vexillogical conference in Switzerland. The flag’s first official day was May 10, 1994, when Mandela was inaugurated as president.