MEET BOTSWANA'S HEAVY METAL COWBOYS
Photographer Frank Marshall captures Africa's underground rebels rising up against the status quo
by Ellie Howard
Real rockers wear black studded leather, and silver spiked boots. When they shake hands, your lucky if you escape without a broken finger. Children gather at their feet and standing tall they stalk through the streets; because they are the rebels with a cause.
Meet the ‘Guardian Angels’, Botswana’s leather clad warriors. A stylised mix that resembles a shoot out between Judas Priest and ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ dangerous villain Frank, it is uniquely African movement.
Photographer Frank Marshall first stumbled across this pocket of Botswanan culture in 2008, when he accompanied ‘Skinflint’ during one of their gigs in the country’s capital, Gaborone.
The sub-saharan desert has been the stomping ground for the metallic cowboys since the 1970’s; metal there has a dedicated punk following. The music promised anarchy and rebellion, the ability to transcend race, nationality and traditions. United in the metal tribe, the brothers-in-arms subverted social structures, revelling in the power to reject popular culture and form their own ideology.
Since then they have appropriated the genre, adding their own embellishments and adopting fearsome names such as ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Sucide Torment’ and ‘Ishmael Phantom Lord’. Metal is a universal langue, one spoken by all head-banging fanatics and it knows no boundaries, and according to CCN article even Botswana president Ian Khama is a rocker too. Most unusual is the ancestral traditions that have become amalgamated into the music– lyrics sing of folklore and mythology, the genre has its grassroots in African culture.
The Botswanan metal tribe are a beautiful anomaly - they are the new renegades. Metal fans are usually Eurocentric, Caucasian and synonyms with greasy-haired bikers, not Botswanan youths. Often the metal tribe is mistaken as having formed aggressively due to an oppressed past but Botswana has remained relatively unscathed compared to much of Africa, these doomsday cowboys exist simply to challenge the status-quo,and to have fun dressing up while doing so.