Qhubeka Cheer Bells

In South Africa’s rural North West province, at the Madikwe Rural Development Project (MRDP), the sound of cowbells fills the air. Rather than a herd of cattle, however, the sound is coming from a workshop where creative local craftspeople are making the bells out of recycled metal.

These Cheer Bells are designed for supporters at sports events. Cowbells were first used in sports by the Swiss to cheer on athletes at downhill skiing events. They have gone on to become an icon at the Winter Olympics and usage has spread into the sports of cycling and triathlons.

The colourful Qhubeka versions put an African spin on the bells. Each bell is carefully handmade and hand-painted. The artisans making them are part of a Qhubeka work-to-earn programme.

The bells are then distributed by Qhubeka, and hopefully make their way into the hands of sports supporters around the world.

Artisans start by cutting rectangle metal pieces (like the man in the red shirt is doing). These are then notched and drilled (which is what the man in the navy shirt is busy with).

The metal plates are then bent into shape, and coated with a base coat of paint. Then the bell clapper and handle are assembled and a plastic bag is melted into a ball for the clapper and attached.

Finally, the bell is hand-painted. Below, you can see each step of the bell production laid out, with a finished bell at the end.