Hey makarapas!

2009-10-24 00:00

MAKARAPAS are a mark of the inventiveness of South Africans — where else would a piece of safety equipment, more usually found at construction sites and gold mines, be transformed into a headdress expressing fanatical support for a football team?

The unique headgear is made by first cutting the hard-hat shell and then folding the plastic into the desired shape with the softening assistance of a gas stove. The makarapa is then painted in the colours of a fan’s club or national team.

To see just what can be achieved, you need to visit the African Art Centre in Florida Road, Durban, which is staging an exhibition of this uniquely South African headgear until October 26.

And for those who think makarapas are only for soccer fans, think again.

The creators, artists at the Newtown Project in Johannesburg, will also make fabulous makarapas for Sharks and Blue Bulls rugby fans, cricket fans and will even personalise a hat with your picture if you want them to.

Inventor Alfred Baloi and his son Klaas established the Newtown Project earlier this year to produce makarapas in response to an expected increases in demand for the headgear for the 2010 Football World Cup.

Baloi insists their makarapas will retain their individually hand-painted appearance, but to improve delivery they will make use of digital robotic cutting technology instead of the traditional box-cutter.

Among those benefiting from working on the makarapas is painter Gift Lumba from Malawi. He says: “When I arrived here in South Africa, I struggled to get employment, so I used to help at the Internet café in our area. Since I am an artist, I used to draw when we were not busy. That’s when someone who was working at the Newtown Project spotted me. The guy told me that they needed painters for a 2010 project. I went there and started painting in the studio­,” Lumba adds.

“Since I’ve been here, I am inspired everyday, especially by other artists who are better than myself; it’s sort of a learning curve for me. I gained experience and I am going to use it in my country one day.

“The way that things are at the moment­ in South Africa, 2010 will leave this country with many opportunities. Some of them are already being created; we now have jobs. Many people will benefit from this tournament. I am very happy. This studio has changed my life.”

Visitors to the exhibition can see the production process, samples of makarapas, which are available for large-quantity orders, as well as individual one-off pieces that are for sale.

The makarapas exhibition closes on Monday, but if you miss it, don’t despair, because the gallery shop will have examples of the headgear on show and contact details for the Newtown Project.

• The African Art Centre is at 94 Florida Road, Durban. Phone 031 312 3804 or 031 312 3805, e-mail africanartcentre@afriart.co.za or log on to thewebsite at www.afriart.org.za

Six ways to wear a makarapa

1. Kaizer Chiefs fan

2. Orlando Pirates fan

3. Bafana Bafana fan.

4. Sharks fan.

5. ANC supporter

6. Proteas fan

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