PNG Flag designer passes on

A WOMAN who made history by designing the flag of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea passed away at the Port Moresby General hospital this morning.

She fell ill and was rushed to the hospital on Monday, April 10, and admitted at the Intensive Care Unit on life-support.

Her immediate family which included her husband and elder sons called for assistance from the government while she was under critical conditions.

However she was pronounced dead in the early hours of today.

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Susan Karike (centre)

Susan Karike became a household name when at the age of 15 and a student attending Sacred Heart Mission School on Yule Island, her simple design for the PNG flag stole the approval of many Papua New Guineans including the members of the then House of Assembly who voted in favor of it.

Susan Hareho Karike (later Mrs Huhume), from Meii village in the Gulf province, designed the flag in 1971 after she was approached by Sister Joseph Mary, her art teacher that time.

During that year the country was preparing for the Independence, so the government needed one outstanding design for a flag which would symbolize their independence and the birth of a new nation.

Hence, they went ahead and invited all Papua New Guineans to enter through a competition designs which would help find a PNG flag.

Art teacher, Sister Mary asked Susan who was her best student that time to design a flag after she heard of the competition and Susan had agreed.

Susan Karike 1968 (2) (2)
Young Susan Karike in 1968

Perhaps not everyone was as enthusiastic about the proposal, but when the government received a draft design from Susan it soon found widespread support.

It wasn’t until July 1, 1971 that the decision to adopt Susan’s design for the new PNG Flag became official. A flag in the proportion of 3:4 was then designed and on the arrival of the Independence on 16th September, 1975, the new PNG flag carrying Susan’s design was raised at the Independence Hill at Waigani, in Port Moresby.

The ceremony was accompanied by the beating of the drums and a loud cheer from the crowd who were present that time to witness the historic event.

During Independence the PNG flag was seen flown alongside the Australian flag on some official ceremonies, and Susan was invited to raise the flag on such occasions or on other important occasions which took place after Independence.

So immense, the applause it may have seemed, on the birth of our nation but for Susan Karike it was her proudest moment and she’s much more humbled by it.

The then 15-year old Susan’s work has received personal credits for her arresting design of Papua New Guinea’s flag from many who’ve seen her work.

And we as a nation can only thank God for a very talented and gifted woman Susan Karike was.

Her proud legacy will leave on.

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