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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid