One of the features of attending football matches in South Africa is the Makarapa, the redesigned construction hats worn by devotees of the game.
Miner’s helmets were originally worn to protect spectators from being hit by bottles, but over the last few decades the designs have become crazier, including club insignia’s, and national makarpas are being prepared for the World Cup in 2010.
The man credited with making the first Makarapa is Alfred Baloyi, now 53, and an avid Kaizer Chiefs fan. In 1979 at a game he saw a man hit on the head by a flying bottle and at home he came up with an idea. At his next game, Baloyi, wore his work safety helmet, which he decorated with football imagery.
Three decades ago he was making two or three a day trying to sell them on the street, now he has gone into partnership with a sports marketing specialist producing helmets for commercial sale. In downtown Johannesburg a warehouse now uses German technology to mass-produce the helmets, and a team of local’s hand paint them.
A basic Makarapa will cost 200 Rand ($40) but designs with all the bells and whistles can cost 800 Rand ($160) or more.
Baloyi now earns a comfortable wage from his business and is putting his daughter through art school. He attends all of South Africa’s games with a plastic Bafana Bafana guitar and of course a Makarapa.