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Jamaica flag: National symbol of Caribbean nation depicting heritage, resilience

Jamaica flag: National symbol of Caribbean nation depicting heritage, resilience

The Jamaica flag is a vibrant symbol of the nation’s rich heritage and resilient spirit and holds a prominent place in the hearts of Jamaicans and admirers worldwide. Officially adopted on August 6, 1962, coinciding with Jamaica’s independence from British colonial rule, the flag’s distinctive design and colours encapsulate the island’s unique identity and aspirations.

What is Jamaica flag?

What is Jamaica flag?

The national flag of Jamaica was officially adopted on August 6, 1962, coinciding with the nation’s attainment of independence from the British Empire. This flag features a distinctive design comprising a gold saltire, which effectively divides the flag into four segments: two green sections at the top and bottom and two black sections at the hoist and fly sides.

A notable characteristic of the Jamaican flag is its unique colour scheme. It is the only national flag that does not incorporate any shades of red, white or blue. This attribute underscores its distinctiveness among the world’s flags. The colours and design elements of the Jamaican flag carry significant meaning and symbolism, reflecting the country’s rich cultural heritage and identity.

The flag is colloquially known as “The Cross” or the “Black, Green, and Gold”, which highlights its form and the specific colours utilised.

In Jamaica, the use of the national flag is governed by standard etiquette, which primarily ensures that the flag is always the most prominently displayed and is maintained in good condition. The government has established the National Flag Code, a set of guidelines that flag owners are expected to follow.

The state ensign of Jamaica is a Blue Ensign featuring the Jamaican national flag in the canton and is typically used only by the Jamaican Government. Following the British system, Jamaica’s naval ensign is a White Ensign with a Saint George’s Cross and the Jamaican national flag in the canton.

However, given that Jamaica does not possess a navy, this ensign is usually used by the Jamaican Coast Guard.

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Rules that guide the usage of the Jamaican flag

The National Flag Code provides detailed instructions for the proper display and handling of the Jamaican flag. Key regulations include:

  • The National Flag is to be treated with the utmost respect as a sacred emblem of the nation. When the flag becomes faded or worn, it must be privately burned and not repurposed.
  • The flag must never touch the ground or the floor.
  • No other flag should be larger than or placed above or to the right of the National Flag, except at foreign diplomatic missions or consulates. International customs prohibit displaying one nation’s flag above another in peacetime.
  • On civilian premises, it is recommended that the National Flag be hoisted at 8 a.m. and lowered at sunset, unless it is illuminated by focused lighting after sunset.
  • The National Flag may be flown at half-mast as a sign of mourning, as directed by the Office of the Prime Minister.
  • The Jamaican flag must not be used to drape the coffin of a non-national.
  • The flag should not be draped over vehicles, except those used by the military, police, or on state occasions.

Jamaica flag history

Jamaica flag history

Following the dissolution of the West Indies Federation— a group formed in 1958 consisting of British-ruled islands— Jamaica swiftly moved to establish its national flag in preparation for its independence.

In the months preceding Jamaica’s independence, the then Premier, Honourable Norman Washington Manley, appointed an Independence Celebrations Committee to organise the national festivities.

By the end of September 1961, it was decided to hold competitions to select a National Anthem and a National Flag for the soon-to-be-independent Jamaica. A monetary award of £100 was offered for the accepted flag design.

The competition garnered over 368 entries, several of which are now preserved in the Special Collections of the National Library of Jamaica.

However, none of these submissions were deemed suitable. Consequently, the task of designing the national flag was assigned to a bipartisan committee from the Jamaican House of Representatives.

Initially, a design featuring horizontal stripes was approved. However, it was subsequently realised that this design bore a strong resemblance to the flag of Tanganyika, which had recently gained independence (and is now part of Tanzania). To avoid confusion, the design was altered to the current configuration, incorporating the colours black, green, and gold.

The final design of the Jamaican flag features a gold diagonal cross or saltire, dividing the flag into four triangles. The dimensions are precise, with each arm of the cross being one-sixth of the flag’s length. The top and bottom triangles are green, while the hoist and fly triangles are black.

The specific shade of green used is identified as Emerald T8 17, British Admiralty Bunting Pattern. This flag came into official use on August 6, 1962, marking Jamaica’s Independence Day.

Jamaica’s flag is notable for being one of only two current national flags that do not include the colours blue, white, or red—the other being the flag of Mauritania.

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Jamaica flag meaning

Jamaica flag meaning

The Jamaican national flag’s official interpretation is encapsulated in the phrase: “The sun shineth; the land is green; and the people are strong and creative.” This succinctly conveys the meanings behind the flag’s colours.

The colour green on the flag symbolises hope and the country’s rich agricultural resources, reflecting Jamaica’s lush landscapes and the fertility of its land. Gold is associated with the natural beauty of the sunlight and the wealth of the country, representing the island’s bountiful resources and the bright future that lies ahead.

Black stands for the strength and creativity of the Jamaican people, embodying their resilience and innovation. Originally, the colour black was linked to the “hardships overcome and to be faced” by Jamaicans. However, this interpretation was reconsidered in February 1996 by a committee appointed to review and report on Jamaica’s National Symbols and Observances.

Chaired by the late Professor the Honourable Rex Nettleford, OM, OCC, the committee decided to adjust the official interpretation of the colour black. They aimed to present a more optimistic view, recognising that many Jamaicans identified with the colour black and were disheartened by its negative connotations associated with hardships.

The committee’s report indicated that they recognised many Jamaicans identified with the colour black and were offended by its negative association with hardships.

Today, the Jamaican National Flag stands as a potent symbol of national pride and unity, cherished by Jamaicans worldwide.

Jamaica flag colours

Jamaica flag colours

Each colour holds particular significance.

Black represents the strength and creativity of the people, gold signifies the wealth of the country and the natural beauty of its sunlight and green denotes the lush vegetation and agricultural resources of Jamaica.

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