A month ago I compiled a list of my favourite flags, which you can see here. Yes, flags can be lovely things. But flags can also be horrible things, and let's face it - we love reading lists of worsts more than we like lists of bests. So here's fifteen eyesores from around the world, compiled for your...er, appreciation? Revulsion? I'm not even sure myself.
Let's start off simple... or perhaps not, as I don't have the first idea what a 'flag of Buddhism' can possibly refer to. Where do you fly a 'flag of Buddhism'? Do other religions have flags? If so, do they look anything like this hopeless test pattern, which ought to be accompanied by a high-pitched beep at four in the morning on a TV channel? This eyesore is proof enough of why religions shouldn't have flags.
Keeping it simple, then, is Wallonia, the part of Belgium that speaks French. The French (as in the inhabitants of a neighbouring country) have long been identified with the humble and not-very-evocative rooster. The Walloons here seem to like cock enough to throw one, in red on yellow, atop their flag. Cock-a-doodle-doo indeed.
Connacht, one of the four classical provinces of Ireland, seems to have made its flag by sewing together two scraps from two entirely different flags. The black eagle on white might have been a nice flag. The white arm-with-sword on blue would have been uglier, but serviceable. But half of one and half of the other? That's a bird who's been eating its spinach.
This is a county in Lithuania, and thus nothing of great importance to anyone not Lithuanian, if not for its amazing flag featuring a man with Rice Krispies pouring from his palms. I think this man is supposed to be sowing seeds, but it's ridiculous however you put it, and the series of jigsaw puzzle pieces around the outside do little to give it dignity.
Switzerland was my first exposure to the existence of ugly flags. Its famously square white-on-red plus sign is appealing enough, but the cantons? There be horrors within. I might have included Uri's bull's head, except that it's actually vaguely cool. Instead, here's Glarus: a frowning monk with a halo, a book and an antenna, all in yellow. Being square can't save this flag. Being shaped like the Nepalese flag wouldn't save this one.
In my list of the best flags, I included Nunavut, the Inuit homeland whose flag features an inukshuk. But there's actually two: Nunatsiavut is another Inuit homeland in northern Labrador. And their flag has all of the Inukshuk with none of the charm. Looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, this flag must give nightmares to Inuk children everywhere.
My list of best flags had a lot of praise for Japanese prefectural flags. But obviously they can't all be genius, as this hastily cribbled "RII" proves. It's actually apparently the Kanji for 'Ishikawa', though that would appear to be:
Er, vive la difference, I guess. Since I'm in Asia, I ought to note that Wikipedia gives a series of truly horrendous flags for the cities and regions of South Korea, like Daejeon, whose flag Wikipedia claims is the phrase "It's Daejeon" written in a font frighteningly similar to Comic Sans. But outside of Wikipedia I see no evidence that this is a flag and not just a wordmark/logo, so I have to defer to the 'Wikipedia doesn't know what it's talking about' theory, and leave out what would otherwise top my list of ugly flags easy.
The flag of Guam shows up on many an online list of ugly flags, and for good reason. That little island scene, with palm tree and boat, would be ugly enough if it was a 3rd grader's art class submission. But on the flag? And with the name Guam in capital letters over top of it? It's a truly hokey flag, and its cute little red border can't save it.
Originally, I figured I'd have many an American state flag on this list. As it is, a lot of them are pretty bad, but not horrid. And Virginia sports an awesome flag with both violence and nudity happening... but a pelican momma feeding three pelican babies? Well, it gets worse. Apparently they changed it in 2006 to add the drops of blood. The pelican, you see, is feeding her babies her own blood. Yikes. And there's a motto, too! One which appears to be missing a comma, unless 'union justice' is a concept I'm unfamiliar with.
10. RWANDA (1962-2001)
Have I really not looked at a list of flags in ten years? Rwanda always stuck out in my head for 'ugly flags', with its generic pan-African tricolour vandalised with a giant letter R in the middle - ugliness defined. But it turns out that that flag reminded people of the genocide, so they changed it to a much prettier flag. Sniff... I shed a tear for all those giant Rs lost in the mists of time.
Speaking of civil war... here's a country that's been divided for ages now. It was perhaps this ridiculous flag that caused Turkey to invade. Generally speaking, putting a map of your country on your flag is never a good idea (are you listening, Kosovo?), as it means that schoolkids can never draw the flag. Plus, saying "it's too boring; let's stick some branches in there" is no good idea either. All on white. Hey, isn't a white flag a symbol of surrender? Bet you guys are kicking yourselves over that one, aren't you?
12. SAINT-PIERRE AND MIQUELON
I wanted to include some Canadian flags here, and really several of them are worthy of inclusion - stand up, BC, PEI and New Brunswick. But in a bit of neighbourly friendliness, I defer to the tiny piece of France off the coast of Newfoundland. This deeply ugly, and apparently unofficial, flag consists of three other flags, representing the Basques, the Bretons and the Normans, and a really big boat, which has more than a bit of cartooniness to it. The end result looks like a quilt, and is one of those overly busy flags that unfortunately fly in places around the world. A few more overcrowded flags follow.
Chimbu is a province in Papua New Guinea, which is also called Simbu, which apparently, according to Wikipedia, means 'Sipuuuu' (yes, four u's), which means 'thank you'. Whew. Not thank you for this drapeau, though, which is every bit as messy, overcrowded and thrown-together as many of the Papuan flags. You've got the Southern Cross on black and the bird of paradise on red, from the Papuan national flag. In fact, you've got the whole national flag, wearing a sash. That's where the ugly comes in. You've got a pearl necklace intersected by two olive forks and a swizzle stick. All on green. Charming.
Veneto is a region in Italy that used to be the Venetian Republic. It has the lovely city of Venice, but to counter that it has what must be the busiest flag ever. The main focus of the flag is a lion with wings reading a book - I swear this to you - and it's surrounded by enough border-style decorations to choke a winged lion, plus seven tiny little flags. Yes, seven of them. Or maybe they're coats of arms. I can't tell - the ugliness of this flag obscures my vision.
But leave it to Italy to out-ugly even itself, vexillogically. By far the worst flag I've ever seen, this is technically merely a triskelion, like the flag of the Isle of Man, with the head of Medusa and three sheaves of wheat. What it actually is is some kind of quasi-pornographic horrorshow, as a three-legged woman gives birth to a winged baby and some agricultural products. How Sicilians can look at that flag and not snicker, or lose their appetite, I'll never know. Ah, Italy, how I love thee.