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Nationalflagge Kiribati
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Republic of Kiribati

Last modified: 2023-12-09 by ian macdonald
Keywords: kiribati | ocean | bird | frigate bird | sun |
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[ Kiribati ] [FIS Code] 1:2  image by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 18 March 2014
Flag adopted 12 July 1979, coat of arms adopted 1 May 1937

On this page:

See also:

Other websites:

Description and history of the flag

DK Pocket Book gives additional information about the adoption of the flag:

"Shortly before independence was granted in 1979, a local competition was held to choose a new national flag and a design based on the colonial coat of arms, was submitted. The College of Arms decided to modify the design. Both the golden frigate bird and the sun were enlarged to occupy more of the top of the flag and the width of the blue and white wavy bands was reduced. However, the local people insisted on the original design, in which the top and bottom halves of the flag were equal, the sun and local frigate birds small, and the various design elements outlined in black. The new flag was hoisted during the independence day celebrations in the capital, Tarawa, on 12 July 1979."

And if you check Smith, the flag represented is the rejected design, the flag represented above is also the rejected design!
Ivan Sache, 31 December 1999

The flag is the banner of the arms that was given to Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1937. The Ellice Islands became what we know as Tuvalu today, and the Gilbert Islands changed their name to Kiribati, but the shield remained the same. It is red with white-blue wavy lines in bottom representing the ocean, golden sun rising from it, and above it a bird flying. This flag came in use in 1979.

Until then Gilbert and Ellice used blue duster with the same shield, and a motto 'Fear the God, respect the king'. This was official since 1969. What is actually written there is: 'Maaka te atua, karinea te uea; mataku i te atua, fakamamalu ki te tupu'.
Željko Heimer 29 February 1996

"Kiribati" is pronounced Kirribarce (accent on the first syllable), and is a rendering into an Oceanic language form of the English name Gilberts (the shorthand form of the Gilbert Islands' name). So in one sense it didn't really change its name, just the spelling.
Stuart Park 29 February 1996

The sun has 17 rays (because there are 16 atolls in the Gilbert Islands group, plus Banaba, former Ocean Island = 17); there are 3 main waves under the sun (because there are 3 groups of islands in the republic: Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands). These symbols have been decided by Sir Arthur Grimble for the Colony
flag, capital on Ocean Islands (but of course, at that time, the Ellice Islands were also part of the colony).
Vincenzo Guglielmelli, 31 August 2004

The Kiribati National Identity Act 1989 includes precise construction details for the whole flag, including frigate bird, sun and sea waves.
Antonio Gutiérrez, 17 February 2007

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be. For Kiribati: PMS 032 red, 109 yellow, 286 blue and black. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 11 October 2012

Construction sheet

[ Kiribati ] image by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 18 March 2014

Based on

Several variants of the Kiribati flag have been reported: see Variants of the flag
Euripides Filippidis, 13 July 2018

Meaning of the Flag

In a letter to the Western Pacific High Commissioner, it was written (concerning the badge):
Sea. Represents the space of the ocean in which the colony is isolated.
Sun. The islands lie close to the 180 degree meridian. Sun is either rising or setting.
Bird. Frigate bird (Fregat Aquilla) symbolises power, poise and freedom. To the natives it is a sign of sovereignty and kingly birth, and highly regarded as such.
A.G. 15 August 1931.

A.G. may have been Arthur Grimble, who wrote a book 'Pattern of Islands' (in the USA 'We Chose the Islands'), published 1952, about his time as a Colonial Administrator in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands.

As originally proposed, the badge had a crown, on the shield, above the frigate bird, but this was removed by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee.

David Prothero, 11 May 2004

A government publication produced in 1984 show the details of the flag of Kiribati. There are two pages, one shows the flag captioned "The National Flag of Kiribati" (with very minor differences to what we have above, most notably the beak of the bird and the waves seems somewhat "flatter"). The other page contains the following text:

Official description
The bird is a frigate bird which represents power, freedom and Kiribati cultural dance patterns.
The rising sun is the tropical sun as Kiribati lies astride the Equator.
The sea is the Pacific Ocean which surrounds Kiribati.
The dimensions of the flag i.e. the length is twice the breadth.
Colours: Frigate bird, sun and sun rays - Gold BSI 381C No. 355 & Admirality colour T 8514M
Sky - Red BSI 581C No. 539, Admirality colour T 8514H & C.A. pattern M.P. 2362
Wavy Bands - Blue BSI 381C No. 110 & C.A. Pattern M.P. 2358
Wavy bands - White, plain Admirality colour T 8514J & C.A. Pattern M.P. 2363

Željko Heimer, 2 May 2004

Coat of Arms

[ Coat of Arms ]by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 18 March 2007

The Kiribatian coats of arms, was first granted to the Colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands on May 1, 1937, and slightly modified on July 12, 1979, when Kiribati achieved independence from Britain. The motto reads: "Te mauri te raoi ao te tabomoa" (Heath, Peace, Prosperity) in Kiribatian language.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 02 December 2002

According to "The Flag Bulletin" XVIII:4 (july-august 1979) page 119 - the motto means "Well Being, Peace, and Prosperity".
Christian Berghänel, 03 December 2002

"Te Mauri", in the motto, means "Health", "Well being" but it's also the normal greeting for "Hello!'
Vincenzo Guglielmelli, 11 March 2003

Coat of Arms 1937-1979

[ Coat of Arms 1937-1979 ]
by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 02 December 2002

The motto reads: 'Maaka te atua, karinea te uea; mataku i te atua, fakamamalu ki te tupu' (Fear God and Honour the King) in both Gilbertan (Kiribatian) and Tuvaluan languages.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 02 December 2002

See also:

Possible municipal flags

Photos of possible Kiribati municipal or atoll flags can be found at
Jens Pattke, 21 September 2006

It's not clear what the status of these is. The Tabueran and Kiritimati Is photos show something in the form of a flag, but the others are banners on two poles. The Maiana banner is clearly specifically for the National Championships, and I wonder how many of the others were too. Nonouti and Tab North would seem to be, but I suspect they are not the only ones. The exception is the Betio Town Council photo, which shows a flag in front of a banner (with text only). The flag cannot be seen completely, but seems to be a red-blue-green vertical tricolour, with three blue and two white wavy horizontal stripes across the middle of at least the red and green sections, and yellow five pointed stars. Four stars are visible, one a the top of the red section, one at the bottom of the blue and two in the green section.
Jonathan Dixon, 21 September 2006

Civil Ensign (?)

I saw today a TV show in German TV, which was showing scenes of the Southern Seas. The cruise ship had in harbour a flag on the bow, which looked like the coat of arms of Kiribati in the center of a blue flag. I had just a glimpse and the ship was at that moment officially in a Chilean harbour, but who knows, what the cutter did? So, is there a civil ensign of Kiribati?
J. Patrick Fischer, 1 January 2011

So, in other words, it's exactly the same as the government ensign of the Gilbert & Ellice Islands pre-Kiribati independence in 1979?
David Kendall, 1 January 2011


The Customs Acts of 1993 and 2005 do not prescribe a particular Customs flag. The Customs flag up to about 1993 had a Union canton, blue upper fly and white lower flag half with 'HMC' in bold black thereon. The same design was prescribed for the British Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu, and a similar one with the red cross canton for Tonga.
Jeff Thomson, 23 November 2015

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