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Construction details of the national flag of Cabo Verde

Last modified: 2017-11-25 by antónio martins
Keywords: law | ratio: ambiguous | construction |
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According to the Constitution

construction sheet
image by Željko Heimer, 20 Jan 2005 | :?

The Constitution of the Republic of Cabo Verde (Green Cape Islands), adopted in 1992, defines under its Article 8th the new flag, very different from the previous (which was similar to the Bissau-Guinea flag, for historical reasons), and said by some to be very “unafrican”.

2. The National Flag is made up of five rectangles stacked along its length.
  • The upper and lower rectangles are blue, being the upper one half of the flag area and the lower one forth.
  • Separating the two blue rectangles, three stripes each being one 12th of the flag area.
  • The stripes adjoining the blue rectangles are white and the one between is red.
  • Over the five rectangles, ten yellow five pointed stars, with the upper apex in the 90 degree position, define a circle which center lies in the intersection of the middle line of the second vertical quarter, counted from the left with the middle line of the second horizontal quarter, counted from the lower edge. The star nearer from this edge is set inside an invisible circle which center lies on the middle line of the lower blue stripe.

Confused? Good — the original is also very “unclear”, to say the least. I’ll try a more clear and concise description:

Over a field of horizontal unequal stripes (from the top: blue, 6 twelfths of the flag’s height; white, 1 twelfth of the flag’s height; red, 1 twelfth of the flag’s height, white, 1 twelfth of the flag’s height; blue, 3 twelfths of the flag’s height), a circle of ten yellow five-pointed stars pointing upwards, with radius of 1/4 of the flag’s height and center 3/8 of the flag’s width from the hoist and 3/8 of the flag’s height from the bottom edge.
(Stars’ sizes not specified, neither are the color shades.)

António Martins, 19 May 1997 and 29 Mar 2002

The constitutional text is a bit wordy and a bit fuzzy, but still fairly well defined, I’d say. The biggest omission seems to be that the size of the stars is not defined. The other unmentioned measurement is the ratio, and that may certainly be intentional.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 27 Jan 2014

I’d call this legal description “cleverly undefined”, if I could think of any advantage to have a flag’s ratio (and the stars’ sizes) undefined on purpose. Lacking one, I’d go with ivory-tower intellectualism, applying to a flag description terms and methods that make sense in a different discipline (no idea which though — architecture?, surveying?, graphic design?, high school Geometry?).
António Martins, 26 May 2017


Legal text

Lei Constitucional n.º 1/V/99 de 23 de Novembro




Artigo 8º
(Símbolos nacionais)

  1. A Bandeira Nacional é constituída por cinco rectângulos dispostos no sentido do comprimento e sobrepostos.
    1. Os rectângulos superior e inferior são de cor azul, ocupando o superior uma superfície igual a metade da bandeira e o inferior um quarto.
    2. Separando os dois rectângulos azuis, existem três faixas, cada uma com a superfície igual a um duodécimo da área da Bandeira.
    3. As faixas adjacentes aos rectângulos azuis são de cor branca e a que fica entre estas é de cor vermelha.
    4. Sobre os cinco rectângulos, dez estrelas amarelas de cinco pontas, com o vértice superior na posição dos noventa graus, definem um círculo cujo centro se situa na intersecção da mediana do segundo quarto vertical a contar da esquerda com a mediana do segundo quarto horizontal a contar do bordo inferior. A estrela mais próxima deste bordo está inscrita numa circunferência invisível cujo centro fica sobre a mediana da faixa azul inferior.
  1. The National Flag consists of five rectangles placed lengthwise and stacked.
    1. The upper and lower rectangles are of the colour blue, with the upper occupying an area equal to half of the flag and the lower a quarter.
    2. Separating the two blue rectangles are three bands, each one with an area equal to a twelfth of the area of the flag.
    3. The bands adjacent to the blue rectangles are of the colour white and the one lying between them is of the colour red.
    4. Over the five rectangles, ten yellow five-pointed stars, with their upper point on a heading of ninety degrees, define a circle of which the centre is located on the intersection of the centre line of the second vertical quarter, counting from the left, with the centre line of the second horizontal quarter, counting from the lower edge. The star closest to that edge is circumscribed by an invisible circumference of which the centre lies on the centre line of the lower blue band.

quoted and translated by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 27 Jan 2014

It seems that the 1999 Constitution is unchanged from the 1992 one in what concerns the flag — is’t even the same article number (8th).
António Martins, 26 May 2017


Ambiguous ratio prescription

Note that the constitutional description only refers to areas and heights and uses independent horizontal and vertical measurements; that means that no fixed proportions are specified — such a description could apply to a 1:2, 2:3, 1:1 or most other flag formats!
António Martins, 19 May 1997

An interesting effect of the circle being defined relative to the height in the Constitution is that the flag can be lengthened to any length, but it can only be shortened to a high flag until the star circle hits the hoist edge.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 27 Jan 2014


Not unlawful, yet erroneous, 1:2 ratio Cabo Verde flag

1:2 flag of Cabo Verde
image by Željko Heimer and António Martins, 20 Jan 2005

This was also the case of the previous flag: The Constitutions of both Cape Verde and Bissau-Guinea prescribed «three equal area rectangles, one vertical to the hoist and two horizontal to the fly», but Cape Verde had a 2:3 flag (each rectangle being 1×2) and Bissau-Guinea had a 1:2 flag (vertical rectangle 6×4 and horizontal rectangles 3×8).
António Martins, 19 May 1997


Further details according to William Crampton

construction sheet
image by Željko Heimer, 29 Jan 2005

I have a specification by William Crampton, which refers to a diagram and regulations issued at the time of adoption, and the copy of a diagram which matches this, but, no actual confirmation that this is actually the diagram to which he referred, and there was, regrettably, no copy of the “regulations” as such on file. To make matters even more uncertain, this gives us a third ratio of 10:17. Whilst I had (and have) the greatest respect for William’s professionalism, I have none the less attempted to get some sort of official confirmation, but (as you would expect) without result.
Christopher Southworth, 20 Jan 2005

As per Crampton’s document Christopher cited: overall ratio 1000:1700, measured along hoist 250+83+83+83+500, along length 638+1062, stars arranged on a circle of diameter 470 each inscribed in a circle with diameter 91.
Željko Heimer
, 29 Jan 2005

The details of the (unfortunately) unconfirmed specification I have are as follows:

On a flag of 1000×1700 units, the fly is given as 500-83-83-83-250, the distance to the centre of the imaginary circle which places the stars is given as 638 along the length and 275 up from the base, the diameter of that circle is given as 470, with each star contained within an imaginary circle of diameter equalling 91.

There are two slight problems [later fixed] with this when set against the prescriptions of the Constitution:

  1. the width of the centre stripes should, of course, be 83.33, and
  2. the requirement that «The star closest to the bottom is on a circle whose centre shall be in the middle of the blue band» would make the diameter of the imaginary circle placing the stars 500 not 470 units.
Hardly significant, but there none the less.
Christopher Southworth, 22 Jan 2005

The figure of 638 is from the hoist to the centre point of the imaginary circle around which the stars are arranged, and almost exactly represents the Constitutional requirement of three-eighths the length (the exact figure on a flag of 1700 units long would be 237.5)? The widths given for the various stripes are indeed clumsy (and as I pointed out previously slightly inaccurate), but this could well be due to somebody — and we hope it was somebody official — having measured an actual flag, but they are (in any case) close enough to the legal stipulation of one-twelfth each for the narrow stripes.

A size of 1000×1700 units is hardly what I, or an other experienced vexillologist, would choose for a flag whose legal requirements include 3/8, 1/2 and 1/12, but that is what the diagram uses. I must agree that a flag 240 units wide (and if we accept 10:17) 408 units long would be far more sensible, and would give fly measurements of 120-20-20-20-60.
Christopher Southworth, 28 Jan 2005


corrected numbers

construction sheet
image by Željko Heimer, 29 Jan 2005

As per Crampton’s document Christopher cited the circle of stars is too small in accordance with the (constitutional) requirement that the lowest star should be in the middle of the blue stripe. This would be achieved if the diameter would be 500. (In the image above, figures reduced to 25/6 to achieve reasonable and yet exact numbers.)
Željko Heimer, 29 Jan 2005


Ratios specified in selected sources

reported by António Martins, 19 May 1997; Carlos Esparza, 18 Jan 2001; Ivan Sache, 21 Jan 2001; Jarig Bakker, 21 Jan 2001; and Christopher Southworth, 21 Jan 2005

Unless any of the authors above can give a source for those values (which I doubt, considering their disparity), I believe that they are not the ratio(s) prescribed by a lesser and more detailed law, but rather (mis)measurements of real flags, manufactured under the legal license of no fixed ratio.
António Martins, 24 Jan 2001


Size of the stars

The size of the stars is also not mentioned in the Constitution. As all the images I have seen show the stars somewhat “entering” the red stripe, they must be inscribed in circles with diameter larger than exactly 1/12 of the flag’s height, perhaps 1/10 of the flag’s height.
Željko Heimer, 28 Apr 2001

The biggest omission in the Constitution seems to be that the size of the stars is not defined. I guess this comes from the construction style, that derives everything from the surface from the flag. Judging by the stars on existing flags, I'd say the stars are smaller than stars with a spanning circle of 1/8th of the hoist, but larger than stars with a spanning circle of 1/12th of the hoist. Apparently they have a size between those which is more difficult to define using the other parts of the flag. Of course, the stars may be undefined on purpose.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 27 Jan 2014


Color shades

The colours of the flag and the coat of arms of Cabo Verde were specified in the Graphic Design Manual (Manual de Normas Gráficas), which was adopted by Government Resolution 37/2009 of 21 December 2009. The Manual was published in Boletim oficial, I. Série 48 of 21 December 2009. The colours according the Pantone colour scheme are defined as:

  • #003366 Blue: 287C
  • #CC0033 Red: 186C
  • #FFCC00 Yellow: 116C
  • #006633 Green: 349C
  • #000 Black: Black C
Jos Poels, 6 Feb 2014

I just saw on a large photo taken outside the City Hall of São Filipe (Fogo island) the national flag of Cape Verde. The stars are clearly Y+, “dark” yellow (Y+), with clear contrast on the white areas.
António Martins, 30 Nov 2003

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics [loc12], with info approved by each NOC, gives for Cape Verde PMS 293 blue, 032 red, 109 yellow.
Ian Sumner, 10 Oct 2012


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