News / Africa

'Makarapa' Hat Expected to be a Fan Favorite at South Africa's World Cup

South Africa's 'Makarapa' hard hat considered essential attire at upcoming football World Cup

A Makarapa designed by Alfred Baloyi bears the likeness of a Zulu warrior waving South Africa flags
A Makarapa designed by Alfred Baloyi bears the likeness of a Zulu warrior waving South Africa flags
Darren Taylor

The chemical aroma of fresh paint and burning plastic fills one’s nostrils inside the cavernous factory alongside one of Johannesburg’s busiest highways.  At tables scattered across a sprawling floor, teams of artists scrawl designs on sheets of paper.  Some hack and shape chunks of recycled plastic, while others frantically paint it in a swirl of colors.

Supervising it all is one of South Africa’s most famous football supporters, Alfred Baloyi.  

“You can call me ‘Lux,’ he says, extending a calloused, paint-stained hand.  

“All my friends do.  It’s because when I was a child I loved Lux soap. I even did eat some once!  Then people started calling me ‘Lux,’” he adds.        

More than 30 years ago, Baloyi invented what’s now an iconic symbol of South African football – the ‘makarapa’, or ‘hard hat’, adorned with all kinds of decorations.  The embellishments commonly include images of favorite players, former president Nelson Mandela, current politicians and team flags and colors.  

Extravagant decorations

For the World Cup – Africa’s first – Baloyi and his employees are making makarapas to suit fans of most of the 32 teams.

Alfred Baloyi, wearing a makarapa decorated with the image of South African football legend, Lucas Radebe, inside his factory in Johannesburg
Alfred Baloyi, wearing a makarapa decorated with the image of South African football legend, Lucas Radebe, inside his factory in Johannesburg

Baloyi wears a makarapa on top of which is the carved likeness of former South African football legend Lucas Radebe, wearing his team’s green and gold and holding two vuvuzela trumpets.  Underneath Radebe’s image is a replica of Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium, where the opening game and World Cup final are to be played.

A Zulu warrior, waving South Africa flags, is perched atop another of the hats.    
Others bear likenesses of the best international football players, like Argentina’s Lionel Messi.  

Some are geared towards United States supporters, painted in stars and stripes or decorated with a plastic Statue of Liberty, baseball mitt or basketball.  There’s a design for French supporters, their Les Bleus team’s cockerel symbol preening on top of a makarapa, and another for British fans, painted with the traditional blood red St. George’s Cross.

Baloyi says his creations will retail for the equivalent of about US$ 30 each, and that judging from the orders he’s received so far, the makarapa’s going to make a “huge impact” at the football extravaganza.   

The story behind the makarapa

Baloyi's employees make makarapas out of recycled plastic
Baloyi's employees make makarapas out of recycled plastic

“The way I invented the makarapa is almost as weird as I am,” Baloyi says.  

In early 1979, he was employed as a municipal worker in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.  The manual labor required a hard hat.  Later that year, Baloyi attended a match in Soweto between his favorite team, Kaizer Chiefs, and another leading team, Moroka Swallows.  Violence broke out between rival supporters.

“When I get into the stadium, I saw somebody throwing the bottle, (and it) hit on somebody’s head.  I was scared; I think about my makarapa.  Next game, I wear my makarapa…. to protect my head,” Baloyi explains.

But, shortly before the match, he decided to paint his hat in orange and black, the colors of Kaizer Chiefs.  It was an innovation that “transformed” Baloyi’s life, and initially caused an “uproar” wherever he wore his makarapa across South Africa.  

“The people, they liked it.  (They were saying) ‘Hey, give us that makarapa.’  Then I started to sell them….  Now, the makarapa is part of South African culture,” Baloyi says, shaking his head as if he still can’t believe how protective headgear resulted in a thriving business.  

Makarapa frenzy

Already, the makarapa is the subject of an international media frenzy.  Baloyi says he’s getting so many requests for interviews across the globe that’s he’s beginning to decline them.

Baloyi has made plenty of US supporters coming to South Africa for the world cup.
Baloyi has made plenty of US supporters coming to South Africa for the world cup.

“If I had to be interviewed so much, I would never get any work done!” he says, raising his voice.  But the foreign reporters soon want their own decorated hard hats.

“They have never seen anything like it,” adding, “Everyone must have a makarapa.  If you don’t have the makarapa, you are not in South Africa; you didn’t come to the World Cup!”

But he warns visitors, “There are many Fong Kongs (South African slang for cheap counterfeit products usually made in China) out there.  The ‘Baloyi Makarapa’ is now a registered trademark.”     

Making it big

Baloyi, just like his invention, has come to epitomize the chaotic, colorful nature of South African football.  

“If I go home (to my village in Limpopo province), they call me ‘makarapa’ because they know we wear the makarapa here (in Johannesburg),” he says, beaming with pride.  

But it’s also a term of respect for someone from his tiny village who’s “made it big” in the big city of Johannesburg.  “The makarapa is somebody who’s got money,” Baloyi explains.

Baloyi has made makarapas for fans of most of the 32 World Cup qualifying nations
Baloyi has made makarapas for fans of most of the 32 World Cup qualifying nations

He hopes to partner with a large international company to take his invention global.

“I want to go to Europe, and the Far East, and America to teach people there how to make the proper makarapa,” he maintains.  “It is so much fun!”

Rejecting the naysayers

Focusing his attention on the actual World Cup, Baloyi declares confidently that Bafana Bafana – as the South African football team is known – will do “well” at the tournament, even though many pundits have written them off.

“Every country who host (the World Cup), they qualify until the final.  We can win that trophy.  We can hold that trophy!” he says, raising his arms aloft in premature triumph.

While winning the World Cup may be a long shot for South Africa, for Alfred ‘Lux’ Baloyi, the competition represents another personal victory, as his business expands beyond what he ever imagined.      

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs