What do the colors on the flag of Guyana mean?

The flag of Guyana was officially adopted when Guyana gained independence from Britain on May 26th, 1966. Now known as the Golden Arrowhead, it was based on one of the many design proposals submitted to the Chief minister of British Guiana in 1960. In this post, we’ll briefly expand on the history and what the colors on the flag of Guyana mean.

Who proposed the original design of the flag of Guyana?

In 1960, British Guiana was preparing for independence from Britain. In the United States, 20 year old Whitney Smith was studying political science at Hardvard University. Smith became interested in the anticipated independence, and wrote a letter to Cheddi Jagan (the Chief minister of British Guiana at the time). He inquired on what the flag would look like once British Guiana became independent. Jagan encouraged Smith to submit a design, as one had not been officially designed yet.

Whitney Smith
Dr. Whitney Smith (1940-2016) – Source

What did Smith’s proposed design look like?

It was then that Smith designed the flag shown below and submitted it. The iconic golden arrowhead can be seen in Smith’s original design, and the 3 basic red, green and gold colors. Smith’s design was selected from a pool of submissions, but according to the New York Times, he did not find out until 6 years later. As seen below, the proposed design was notably missing the black and white stripes that we know exist on the flag currently. In addition, the primary color of the flag was red.

Guyana Flag Original Design
Whitney Smith’s Guyana Flag – Source

How did we end up with the current flag of Guyana?

As mentioned earlier, the design was based on Whitney Smith’s proposed flag. But the design that would be officially adopted had some differences. As seen below, the primary color was now green, and there was now the presence of black and white stripes. These modifications of Smith’s original design were made by the British College of Arms. When Guyana became independent on May 26th 1996, it became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The College of Arms, as described on it’s website, is “the official heraldic authority for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and much of the Commonwealth including Australia and New Zealand.”

Flag of Guyana
Flag of Guyana

What do the colors on the flag of Guyana mean?

Green stands for the jungles and fields, white for the many rivers of Guyana; black is for perseverance, and red for nation building. The golden arrowhead symbolizes a thrust forward toward a golden future for the country and recalls the original Indian ihabitants of Guyana.

The excerpt above is from Whitney Smith’s book, Flag Lore of All Nations (2001), where he describes the meaning of each of the 5 colors on the flag of Guyana. The use of the colors and their symbolic meanings take into the account the people and natural beauty of Guyana. To conclude, I’ll leave you with this image of Dr. Whitney Smith posing with the flag of Guyana.

Whitney Smith with the flag of Guyana
Dr. Smith with the flag of Guyana – Source

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