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THE SOUTH AFRICAN COAT OF ARMS

Posted on Monday, 16th Feb 2015

As a country with a long history of change, South Africa’s present coat of arms was introduced on Freedom Day 27 April 2000 when it replaced the national arms that had been in use since 1910, and marks a journey that is a diverse and encompassing as our culture.

The design process was initiated when, in 1999, the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology requested ideas for the new coat of arms from the public. A brief was prepared based on the ideas received, along with input from the Cabinet.  The Government Communication and Information Systems then approached Design South Africa to brief ten top designers, three of which were chosen to present to the Cabinet. Ian Bekker’s concept was chosen as the final design.

Soon after the Union of South Africa was formed, the first coat of arms was granted by King George V, on 17 September 1910, and represented a combination of symbols representing the four provinces (former colonies) that made up the Union.

The evolution of the former coat of arms:

  • The first quarter is the figure of Hope, representing the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope.
  • The two wildebeests of the second quarter represent the Colony of Natal.
  • The orange trees in the third quarter symbolise the Republic of the Orange Free State.
  • The wagon in the fourth quarter represents the Transvaal.
  • The supporters are taken from the arms of the Orange River Colony and the Cape Colony
  • The lion holds four rods, bound together, symbolizing the unification of the four former colonies.

The previous motto, in Latin, was "Ex unitate vires", translated as "unity is strength".

The new coat of arms:

  • The ears of wheat - An emblem of fertility, it also symbolises the idea of germination, growth and the feasible development of any potential. It signifies the agricultural aspects of the earth.
  • Elephant tusks - Elephants symbolise wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity.
  • The shield - It has a dual function as a vehicle for the display of identity and of spiritual defence. It contains the primary symbol of our nation.
  • The human figures - The figures are depicted in an attitude of greeting, symbolising unity. This also represents collective humanity.
  • The spear and knobkierie - Dual symbols of defence and authority, they in turn represent the powerful legs of the secretary bird. The spear and knobkierie are lying down, symbolising peace.
  • The King protea - The protea is an emblem of the beauty of our land and the flowering of our potential as a nation in pursuit of the African Renaissance. The most popular colours of Africa have been assigned to the protea – green, gold, red and black.
  • The secretary bird - The secretary bird is characterised in flight, the natural consequence of growth and speed. It is the equivalent of the lion on earth.
  • The rising sun - An emblem of brightness, splendour and the supreme principle of the nature of energy. It symbolises the promise of rebirth, the active faculties of reflection, knowledge, good judgement and willpower. It is the symbol of the source of life, of light and the ultimate wholeness of humanity.

Motto: "Ike e: Ixarra Ike" is written in the Khoisan language of the IXam people and translates literally to "diverse people unite".

Posted in Jewels of Southern Africa

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