Passing of Dr Fred Brownell – designer of our flag

Posted on May 13, 2019

It is with great sadness that the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies announces the passing of Dr Fred Brownell on 10 May 2019. He was a postgraduate student in the  Department who obtained his doctorate in History in 2015 with a thesis entitled “Convergence and unification: the national flag of South Africa (1994) in historical perspective” under the supervision of Prof Karen Harris.

The thesis presented a detailed analysis of the process by which our national flag came into being on 27 April 1994. He was not only directly involved in every phase of that process, which provided him with a rare insight into the making of this history, but was also the designer of our new national flag. Considering the tensions in South Africa before, and during the negotiation process, which led to our new democratic dispensation, the level of acceptance of this flag, across the broad spectrum of society, has been truly remarkable. In contrast to the previous national flag which was adopted in 1928, which was essentially a symbol of state, our present national flag has truly been embraced as a symbol of the people. 

In recognition of this achievement and for his work as the State Herald, he was the first South African to be awarded the Vexillon in 1995 for “his important contribution to Vexillology” by the International Féderation Internationale de Associations Vexillologiques (FIAV). He is the only recipient to have received this award twice as he was awarded a Vexillon again in 2015 for his doctoral thesis which was regarded as “the most significant contribution to flag science at the time”. He was then also recognised as a “Laureate of the Federation”. As the designer of the new South African flag he was the recipient of the Order for Meritorious Service, Silver, by former President Nelson Mandela in 1999.

Dr Brownell's legacy will live on in the flying of our flag.

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