A Flag to Represent a “New Day for Africa”

Yadesa “Yaddi” Bojia, 2005 SPU alum, designs the official flag of the African Union

Posted March 2, 2010

Yaddi Bojia, 2005 SPU alum, stands with members of the marching band that mobbed him for autographs.

By Clint Kelly [ckelly@spu.edu]

Photos courtesy of Yaddi Boji

A new flag now waves over the 53 states of the African Union (AU) — and it was designed by a Seattle Pacific University graduate.

The flag’s creator , Yadesa “Yaddi” Bojia, was first featured in Summer 2009 Response “Footnotes” for his artistic contributions to last year’s “Lucy” exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. Then came a double dose of fireworks when he learned on July Fourth 2009 that he was the winner of the unique flag-design competition.

Seven months later, Ethiopian-born Bojia, with his wife and two children beside him, proudly watched his flag raised for the first time at the African Union Summit.

Their vantage point couldn’t have been better. They stood directly behind Libyan President Moammar el-Qaddafi as he hoisted the new flag. For Bojia, the AU represents “a voice of reason” on the African continent, witness to some of the most daunting struggles in human history.

For Bojia, it was surreal to be seated later at the summit with the African heads of state. And it stayed surreal. The day after the flag was first raised, as walked to a meeting, a marching band commissioned to play for the presidents broke ranks to clamor for his photo and autograph.

Learning what it takes

The accomplished artist was 25 years old when he came to the United States in 1995 in search of a chance to prove himself. He was welcomed “with open hands” to a land where he firmly believed dreams still came true. “I worked so hard to get an education, sometimes day and night,” he says.

The dream began at Seattle Central Community College, and culminated at his graduation with a degree in visual communications from Seattle Pacific in 2005. He now works as the graphic designer for Housing and Food Services at the University of Washington.

“SPU taught me the importance of the role of a designer,” says Bojia. “It taught me to ask the important questions such as why is my help needed? The answers to these questions help a designer to find solutions to the creative challenge.” When he learned of the international flag competition, Bojia researched the Organization of African Unity, the forerunner of the AU, and studied its successes and shortcomings. What message did he want this flag to convey? How well would his design endure after a generation and beyond? He took note of the diverse cultures of 53 countries and their flags, and those things that have separated and united them.

“I had to stay away from any design resemblance to any of those other flags,” he says. Any political or religious meanings were also taboo.

His winning design, chosen from 116 submissions, is the continent of Africa against a field of lush green, surrounded by beams of light and a ring of stars.

Bojia first laid eyes on his winning flag in a Larry King television interview with Gadhafi, then president of the AU. There in the upper-left portion of the screen was his design, the symbol of “a new day for Africa.”