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: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid