The vuvuzelas make all the noise, but no self-respecting SA fan would forgo the makarapa.
Injury does, occasionally, spark ingenuity. When Alfred Baloyi witnessed a fellow football spectator being whacked on the head by a flying bottle at a local derby in 1979, he decided to don a hard hat the next time he went to watch football. After a short while, he began to decorate the helmet with sculpted motifs and the colours of his team. It didn't take long before others were offering to buy the helmet off his head.
And thus the Makarapa was born.
Now no self-respecting South African football fan would be seen without one. Alongside the ubiquitous vuvuzela, the colourful makarapa has become an integral part of South Africa's lively football culture.
Makarapa (sometimes called makaraba) is the plural of the word lekarapa which has come to describe the hard hats used for mining and construction work. Originally, however, the word literally meant 'scrapers' and referred to the South African migrant workers who left the rural areas to 'scrape' a living in the cities doing mining and construction work.
The makarapa - which, if handmade, can take up to 14 hours to complete - are made by cutting and sculpting part of the helmet so that a motif (of your favourite player or team icon) stands a few centimetres tall at the front of the helmet. This motif is then intricately painted and branded with the team or country's colours. To complete the look, add a pair of oversized glasses.
Whether you are looking for a green and yellow makarapa to support the local boys or are planning to cheer on one of the other World Cup teams, there are a number of easy (and not particularly expensive) ways to get your hands on one.
Alfred Baloyi started a company, Baloyi Makarapa, which sells makarapa which are made and painted under the watchful eye of Baloyi. These helmets are not just fan paraphernalia; they are works of art. Buy a customised makarapa from R299 or try making your own with the DIY Makarapa Helmet Kit.
For a different selection of hand-crafted makarapa, check out the Makaraba website. The makarapa on this site are priced from R320.
If you have no interest in a customised makarapa, you can pick up a more generic and slightly cheaper version at a range of retailers - Woolworths, Edgars, Sportsmans Warehouse, Cape Union Mart and Total Sports - for between R180 and R250 depending on the retailer. If you plan to buy more than 50 makarapa, you can get them directly through Makoya Designs.
Ana Monteiro, Special Correspondent in South Africa for Jornal de Sábado, EXCLUSIVELY for FIFA2010
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