A lekarapa (plural makarapa) is a hand-cut and hand-painted hard hat worn by sports fans. They belong to the typical South African football fan's supporters gear, and are increasingly popular with fans of other sports. Sport fans spend hours to sculpt and paint their makarapa in the colours and emblem of their clubs or country. Besides the makarapa, fans also wear giant glasses or have shields with team slogans and logos. It is generally accepted that Alfred "Lux" Baloyi is the originator of the makarapa as a fan gear or tool as it is known today, and is the owner of the 'Original Baloyi Makarapa' trademark. Many makarapa artists in South Africa make a modest living from designing makarapa, selling them to sports fans of all kinds. With the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the international profile and availability of the makarapa has increased greatly.
The origin of the term "makarapa" goes back to the start of mining in South Africa. The word makarapa (singular lekarapa) literally meant "scrapers", referring to men who would leave the rural areas to go to the cities and "scrape" a living in mining and construction work. Upon returning they would be carrying or wearing the hard hats normally used by miners (the majority being migrant workers) and construction workers; eventually the term came to refer to the protective hats themselves.
Alfred A.K.A. "lux" Baloyi claims to have invented the use of the makarapa as we know it after a fan was hit by a bottle missile during a soccer match. He then decided to bring a makarapa to the stadium as a protective device which he later reshaped and re-branded with the colors of his team. The demand was created when people started inquiring about the hat and he began to manufacture and sell them.
Makarapa are decorated to serve purposes such as being used as fan articles, an individual artwork as well as a means of promoting one's brand in the stadiums as they attract a lot of media attention. They still also afford the wearer protection from missiles thrown at sporting matches, their original reason for being worn.
- Barry Moody (May 18, 2010). "Makarapa maker eyes global success". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- Pumza Fihlani (18 May 2010). "South Africa's number one football fan". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 18 May 2010.
- Darren Taylor. "'Makarapa' Hats Expected to be a Fan Favorite at South Africa's World Cup". Voice of Africa. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- "Makarapa Integrated Marketing". Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- "Makarapa by the hundreds". FIFA. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
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