Regional | Art

Samoan artist shows support for Palestine in unique flag design

None of us are free until all of us are free

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A Samoan-Kiwi artist has created a new-look Palestine flag to show off his support, as the war in Gaza continues into the new year.

Michel Mulipola has been turning up to protests around Auckland with his redesigned Palestine flag, sporting Samoan patterns and motifs. It was also spotted amongst the crowd at Te Pāti Māori- organised nationwide protests last month.

Mulipola, a comic artist, said the fight for indigenous liberation and rights was the reason he brought the flag to that protest.

The protests were organised in response to the new coalition government policies around Te Tiriti o Waitangi, including the ACT Party’s bid to scrap the Māori Health Authority and Oranga Tamariki along with repealing the smokefree generation law.

“For me, bringing the flag [was] because Māori are fighting for recognition,” he said.

“This new government and the anti-Māori stance has kind of realised that the fight for freedom, the fight against oppression, isn’t over. None of us are free until all of us are free.”

Mulipola said of the unique flag: “It was designed because I kind of noticed that Samoans were quiet; especially online around the genocide happening in Palestine.

“I decided to create a kind of image that would be symbolic of standing in solidarity with Palestine.”

Liberation of his people, Palestinian peoples and Māori are all interlinked and it was just a matter of turning up to support, Mulipola said.

Inspired by a Mau movement ancestor

“All of these places that are fighting for their freedom - their liberation from colonial powers.”

Mulipola’s great-grandfather was part of the Mau movement in Samoa where they campaigned for independence from colonial rule during the early 1900s.

Village matai (chiefs) and leaders gathered to stand against losing traditional Samoan authority under the then German administration in Samoa.

They believed it was wrong that family and village matai effectively had no say in the way the country and its people were being cared for at the time.

Mulipola said he owes his work to his great-grandfather’s legacy and hopes to live up to what he stood for.

“These fights today are what my great-grandfather fought [for] yesterday.

“I just kind of try and uphold it and live up to my great-grandfather’s legacy.”

The flag has become a symbol for Samoans to show solidarity and he is glad people can resonate with it, Mulipola said.

“Samoans around the world were really embracing it because it was finally something can show online and around in our solidarity with Palestinian people which is why I was hoping it would be.”