Colour­ful ‘makara­pas’ set sights on the World Cup

The colour­ful ‘makarapa’ will give tour­na­ment a uniquely South African flavour, writes SAMEER NAIK

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

F OR AL­FRED Baloyi, the thought of see­ing mil­lions of foot­ball fans from all over the world wear­ing makarapa hats will be the re­al­i­sa­tion of his wildest dream. Baloyi, known as the fa­ther of the makarapa, the Sesotho word for a hard hat, has al­ready made and per­son­ally pre­sented the funky miner’s hel­met to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and his deputy, Kgalema Mot­lanthe, as well as Brazil­ian su­per­star Ronald­inho.

Now he is hop­ing to use the World Cup as an op­por­tu­nity to make the makarapa a world­wide foot­ball sen­sa­tion.

“Imag­ine turn­ing on the tele­vi­sion and watch­ing an English foot­ball match and see­ing our proudly South African makarapa be­ing worn by their fans; it would be such a great feel­ing,” said Baloyi.

The 53-year-old die-hard Kaizer Chiefs fan has wasted lit­tle time in giv­ing his makara­pas a global feel, by de­sign­ing hel­mets to suit foot­ball fans from ev­ery cor­ner of the world.

“I’ve got Liver­pool, Manch­ester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid and all the other teams. You name it, and I will make it,” said Baloyi.

Also known as “The Mag­is­trate”, Baloyi caters for all fans, no mat­ter how big the ri­valry is be­tween fol­low­ers of dif­fer­ent teams. His abil­ity to turn or­di­nary hel­mets into fancy head­gear has at­tracted clients from be­yond foot­ball too, and now his hats can even be seen at rugby and cricket games.

The 53-year-old Baloyi, who hails from Makawusu town­ship, east of Joburg, be­gan mak­ing makarapa hats in 1979.

“My trade goes back to when I was still an em­ployee at the Pre­to­ria mu­nic­i­pal­ity. We used to get hel­mets and over­alls as uni­forms at work and by co­in­ci­dence the colour of my uni­form clashed with that of the Kaizer Chiefs.

“One day at a soc­cer game I wit­nessed a nasty ac­ci­dent dur­ing which a sup­porter got hit on the head with a bot­tle. I then re­alised sup­port­ers needed pro­tec­tive gear at the game too,” he re­mem­bered this week.

Over the next few months Baloyi be­gan dec­o­rat­ing hel­mets to dis­play his pas­sion for Chiefs and, at the same time, to pro­tect his head at games. This is how the makara­pas be­gan. He’s never looked back.

Now he’s teamed up with Grant Ni­cholls of Pa­padi In­te­grated Mar­ket­ing to help fur­ther his busi­ness.

Sev­eral other busi­nesses have been in­spired by Baloyi, start­ing up their own makarapa fac­to­ries, notably New­town Projects.

Owner Paul Wygers be­gan pro­duc­ing makarapa hats five months ago and in that time has pro­vided jobs to sev­eral un­em­ployed artists and crafters.

“At New­town Projects we have many skilled artists who did not have jobs. Start­ing New­town Projects gave us the op­por­tu­nity to get in­volved in the World Cup in a dif­fer­ent way,” said Wygers.

For 29-year-old Kag­iso Holoko, an artist at New­town Projects, Wyger’s busi­ness has been some­thing of a saviour.

“Our boss has saved us from the streets. He of­fered us great jobs with great prom­ises and he has not failed to de­liver.

“We now feel very much a part of the World Cup and love the jobs we do,” said Holoko.

New­town Projects mass pro­duces a va­ri­ety of makara­pas, for al­most all sports as well as for cor­po­rates.

Un­like Baloyi, who makes all his makara­pas by hand, Wygers uses a pro­grammed robot to as­sist in cut­ting the makara­pas.

“One of the most chal­leng­ing as­pects of mak­ing a makarapa is the cut­ting. We de­cided to in­vest in a pro­grammed robot that would do the cut­ting for us,” added Wygers.

Wygers is hop­ing his busi­ness will sky rocket dur­ing the World Cup. Just like Baloyi, he be­lieves that the makarapa will be­come a quin­tes­sen­tial part of Africa’s first ever World Cup.

HAT­TRICK: Die-hard Kaizer Chiefs fan Al­fred Baloyi works at the win­dow of his tiny shack in Makawuse east of Joburg.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.