image © designboom

fans sporting their teams’ makarapa was a ubiquitous scene during the 2010 world cup in south africa. these colourful hats are actually made from plastic mining helmets, cut, bent and hand painted with different football scenes. the origin of these helmets comes from local south african crafts people, who transformed mining helmets used in the country’s mines into football accessories. alfred baloyi is one of the people credited with starting the idea, originally selling his hand made designs at local craft markets.

in 2000, paul wygers, a local architect heard about this design and slowly transformed this local craft into a productive business called newtown projects with the help of baloyi. the project took off in the run up to the world cup, creating jobs for unemployed local sign painters and craftsmen. newtown projects trained the workers and streamlined the project with a computer controlled, three-axis milling machine. the small studio produced around 25,000 makarapas in the 18th months prior to the world cup. each one takes around 2-3 hours to produce with mechanical cutting and hand painting. the world cup organizer fifa was among their many clients.

the makarapa begins as a shiny new plastic helmet and is then cutout using the milling machine. the machine is capable of creating a variety of designs, each one suited to a particular motif or theme. the cutting process only takes a few minutes, but small hand cuts and some filing is required afterwards. once tidied up, the makarapas are bent over a small heating element. the plastic is turned up and bent out to the sides to give the hat more presence. the helmet is then passed onto one of the workshop’s painters, who primes the plastic in white and then begins to add their design. makarapas can feature any number of themes, from a team’s logo or a country’s iconic landmarks. the design is based on the client’s request or the painter’s ideas. the artists utilize heavy duty, quick dry enamel paint, the same kind used on cars.

along with the noisy vuvuzela, the makarapa is one of lasting images of south africa that will continue on now that the 2010 world cup is over.

making the makarapa a collection of makarapas for every team in the 2010 world cup image © designboom

making the makarapa image © designboom

making the makarapa alfred baloyi and a makarapa

making the makarapa the makarapa workshop image © designboom

making the makarapa helmets showing the different patterns image © designboom

making the makarapa the robotic arm cutting a helmet image © designboom

making the makarapa image © designboom

making the makarapa a makarapa right after cutting image © designboommaking the makarapa makarapas awaiting finishing touches image © designboom

making the makarapa makarapa painting station image © designboom

making the makarapa image © designboom

making the makarapa image © designboom

making the makarapa image © designboom

making the makarapa image © designboom