Colourful ‘makarapas’ set sights on the World Cup
The colourful ‘makarapa’ will give tournament a uniquely South African flavour, writes SAMEER NAIK
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.