The Security Services Archive regularly prepares data retrievals following researcher inquiries on diverse topic. These can be sometimes quite peculiar. Last month a foreign researcher turned to the Archive who conducts research on how the popular Czech woven cap with a zigzag pattern, known under the local name of “zmijovka” (referring to the viper pattern), made its way to West Africa.
These caps were manufactured by Fezko, a well-known company based in Strakovice, South Bohemia. Its main article were fezzes, and the company was their main supplier to the Ottoman Empire. When the markets dropped, Fezko had to switch to other products. Among them were these well-known woven caps. They may have become highly popular due to Amilcar Cabral, for whom it became his favourite headgear, and the members of the Guinea and Cape Verde Independence Party of Africa (Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde – PAIGC) together with their ideological supporters began wearing it, following the example of their leader. It can be stated for sure that Cabral visited Czechoslovakia several times. We can actually guess what symbolic he attributed to this headgear. But the information as to when and where exactly he saw it for the first time, and how it was distributed to West Africa, still remains to be found.
The Archive keeps many materials relevant to this region, including those that directly document the Czechoslovak assistance to PAIGC in its national liberation struggle. The files produced by the former foreign intelligence services are of principal importance. The key documents to answer the researcher’s question could possibly be located also in the archival collection of Fezko, now lodged with the State Regional Archive in Trebon.
Should anyone reading this have relevant information for the above, we will be glad to pass it to the researcher.
The accompanying photographs are lodged as “Permanent Value Materials” no. 21334. The photograph and the poster were part of file 11853 – National Liberation Movement of the So-called Portuguese Guinea, namely subfile 101, part, “Advisor’s Activities”.
The cover page of Jeune Afrique is taken from the file of Amilcar Cabral who was an informer of the Czechoslovak foreign intelligence service.