The Makoya Mararaba website is subtitled 'the genuine south african hand painted fan helmet'. Makarapas are plastic hardhats usually worn by miners, cut, bent and painted to make soccer fan headgear. The original makarapa was produced in 1979 by Alfred Baloyi at Evendale as protection against flying bottles during a match. He has parlayed this into Baloyi Makarapa, which also produces well-decorated vuvuzelas, the football trumpets. He seems to have a trademark on 'makarapa' with a 'p'.
Michael Souter, a Cape Town graphic designer started Makoya Makaraba (with a 'b'), a township community project near Cape Town at Diep River that trains unemployed people in makarapa production.
One senses a lawsuit in the offing, as Baloyi's story on his website ends with 'Baloyi's authentic Makarapas will now be marketed under the name Baloyi Makarapas (TM) ensuring that not only is his role as the originator of these unique creations recognised, but that his hard work is rewarded and his intellectual property protected'.
But, but, Makoya Mararaba is a community project, and its website states, heroically, 'We are a small company that train and help uplift the people from the Township communities on the Cape Peninsula ... We strive to create permanent and meaningful employment for individuals from previously disadvantaged backgrounds'.
Ha! However, FIFA's website ignores these two projects and presents Newtown Projects in Johannesburg, part of an urban regeneration project. Newtown Projects is going into high production for FIFA 2010. They 'stumbled' upon a robotic arm from the automobile industry. Paul Wygers, an architect who started Newtown Projects makarapas says, ingenuously, 'there are two pinch points in the process; cutting them and painting them. If you can get rid of the pinch point of cutting them, which is the most labour intensive part of the whole process, you can up the numbers'. They can do 1000 makarapas a day: huge employment opportunities for painters. They too employ the underemployed, about 35 painters on a production line, some of whom just do the base, some brushes, some airbrush.
Baloyi started by doing 2 a day, who knows how many Makoya does in a day, maybe they too have a robotic arm but somehow I doubt it. Makoya's makarabas start at R270 (CAD36). Baloyi's basic makarapa is R99 going up to R299. (CAD13-40).
There is such an exuberant graphic sensibility at work here, hardhats become fantastic, towering sculptures absolutely integral to South African soccer culture. FIFA 2010 is a powerful endorsement of South Africa's survival, its culture and its future —attention will be diverted away from corruption, poverty and South Africa's support of Mugabe. These enormous sporting events, like the Vancouver Olympics, really seem to propel both cities and their regions into some other stratosphere for the duration and when it is all over, so many things have changed.