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Possible Croatian-Maori (Tarara) flag, New Zealand

Last modified: 2016-11-10 by ian macdonald
Keywords: new zealand | croatia | maori | tarara |
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Flag in "Matica" magazine

[Flag in Matica magazine] image by Željko Heimer, 24 October 2016

Almost five year ago Miles Li sent me off-list a photo from the front page of the magazine "Matica" showing a possible New Zealand Croatian flag of unusual design. It took me some time to find out a bit more about it, and eventually the "Matica" became available on-line, so we may also peek into the article in it regarding the issue.

To cut the long story short - in New Zealand lives and thrives a small community of people of mixed descent from the Dalmatian Croats and local Maori. The Dalmatians immigrated in the second half of the 19th century seeking work as kauri gum-diggers in Northland, and intermarried with Maori. Their descendants are known in Maori as "Tarara" (meaning "fast speakers"), the name locals gave to the original Dalmatian workers. The New Zealand Encyclopedia at http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/30253/tarara-day claims that Tarara have a highly regarded place in present-day Maoridom. A bit more on it can be found at http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/dalmatians/page-6 and linked pages.

Radio New Zealand shows a photo from the Tarara Day celebrations at http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/spectrum/20090426 where the usual Croatian flag may be seen.

The magazine "Matica", the monthly magazine of the Croatian heritage foundation, in its nr. 5 of May 2012 shows a group of Tarara children and an unusual flag flying above them. In the recent past (at least since the last time I looked, and it may have been some years in between) issues of Matica became available on line; see http://www.matis.hr/images/pdf/MATICE/2012/Matica%205_2012.pdf

On pp. 33-35 is an article on Maori of Croatian origin including a report on a documentary film "Novozelandske priče" by Tanja Kanceljak. A still from the film on p. 34 shows the same children and the flag.

The next clue comes from the web site of the Croatian Television Documentary Program on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/Dokumentarni-HTV-293968967376912/photos/?tab=album&album_id=418353314938476, presenting 36 photos from the mentioned film, including the close-up photo of the flag at https://www.facebook.com/293968967376912/photos/a.418353314938476.1073741832.293968967376912/418354048271736/?type=1&theater. Also the film is presented on the TV guide at http://mojtv.hr/film/15513/novozelandske-price.aspx with maybe a better close-up of the flag: http://mojtv.hr//images/7842f21e-bfb4-40fd-ac47-582599e0a2de.jpg.

The flag is a four striped top to bottom red-white-blue-green with a black triangle in the hoist with the Croatian coat of arms in the centre. The triangle is edged towards the hoist with a white stripe with black chevrons, and towards the fly with green, in the upper half, and red koru spiral ornaments, in the lower half.

One may jump to the conclusion that this is the Tarara flag, but one should be careful about it. It is obviously a Tarara flag, but its exact meaning still remains mystery - it may be a flag of some organization of the Tarara community, or of some even or simply an occasional flag.

I have contacted Prof. Senka Vrbanić Božić, from the University of Zadar Sociology Department, who happens to be the expert on the Tarara community, and who published a book on their identity "Tarara: Croats and Maori in New Zealand - memory, belonging, identity", 2008. See http://www.croatia.org/crown/articles/10214/1/Tarara-Croats-and-Maori-in-New-Zealand-monograph-by-Senka-Bozic-Vrbancic.html. She seemed unfamiliar with that particular flag, and wrote (my translation): "From my personal experience [with Tarara community], I can tell you that flags, as well as any other symbols, appearing during the manifestations of Croatian-Maori connections are made after oral traditions of both groups. They would differ from one location to another, and are often for a singular occasion use."

In view of this, I guess we should indeed assume this to be one such occasional flag, unless we get further evidence on the issue.
Željko Heimer, 24 October 2016

A bit more background:

Most Croatian settlers moved to the far north of the country, which also has the strongest Maori population, so not surprisingly there are very few Tarara in this part of the country (a term I'd not heard before). Many of the early Dalmatian settlers were more liked by the Maori than by the British settlers (who called them by the term "Dallies" - originally an insult but now generally accepted as a neutral term). There are a lot of well-known New Zealanders of Croatian descent, perhaps most notably pop singer Lorde (Ella Yelich-O'Connor) - others include sportspeople Frano Botica, Frank Nobilo, Marina Erakovic, and Ivan Vicelich, historian James Belich, artist Milan Mrkusic, and television presenter Simon Mercep, and many of the country's top wine producers are of Croatian descent (such as the Nobilo, Babich, and Fistonich families)
If anyone is interested in more about the Tarara, this appears to be the most authoritative work on the subject: http://www.otago.ac.nz/press/books/otago071753.html
James Dignan, 24 October 2016