Frederick Brownell, the man who designed the South African flag used since our transition to democracy in 1994, has passed away.
Brownell died at his home in Pretoria on Friday night.
He was “a true South African hero whose name is etched in history”, said Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa in a statement.
The name of Fred Brownell is one that is synonymous with the journey taken by this fledgeling democracy in the role he played in designing and producing the flag of post-democratic South Africa.
Brownell, who worked in the department of arts and culture, reportedly sought a theme for SA’s flag for three years in the early 90s. “He selected and de-selected half the colours in the kaleidoscope and wrestled with one design after another,” Mthethwa continued.
Brownell showed a keen interest when government asked the public and design studios to forward sketches of what the new flag should look like as preparations, Centurion Rekord reports.
Some 7,000 designs were sent in, but none of them were judged as appropriate.
During August 1993, Brownell attended an international flag conference in Zurich. Listening to a long-winded and boring speech, his mind started to wonder. Thinking about the new political developments back home, he started to doodle on the back of the programme.
“I started thinking about something depicting convergence and unification, something which was in the ideology of what Nelson Mandela was proposing for the country,”
Out of his doodling emerged a sketch with three legs coming from the flagpole side and merging into one. ”As soon as I drew it I had the feeling that it might work,” he recalled.
Back on South African soil, however, Brownell was still not tasked with the design of the national flag until one Saturday night, when he suddenly received a call instructing him to have the design of the new flag ready in one week.
”I was alarmed. It truly scared the living daylights out of me, because I was fully aware that the first democratic election was only eight weeks away and I knew that the new South Africa would need a new flag.”
Brownell immediately started playing around with his three-pronged concept and different designs along the same line.
On March 15 1994, the design of South Africa’s new flag was adopted by the Transitional Executive Council and then-president FW de Klerk was asked to issue a proclamation of the adoption of the flag. This, however, only happened for unexplained reasons on April 20, exactly seven days before the country’s first democratic election.