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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs