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Leathered Skins, Unchained Hearts

- The Queens of Marok -

Debbie Baone Superpower, Gaborone, Botswana

Snyder, Gaborone, Botswana

Distant Hill, Tlokweng, Botswana

Samie Santiago Newsted, Tlokweng, Botswana

From the emergence of classic rock in 1970’s Botswana, metal music has since become a prolific feature in Botswana’sMusic scene. Irreverent and dissenting from all orthodox prescriptions of what it means to be black and African, evolved a subculture of black metal heads known as the Marok. The Marok, which has since 2011 enjoyed a global audience, presents a stark contrast to the typical desolate image portrayed of Africa, whilst also challenging many people’s undeveloped cultural expectations. However, as is expected, there is a glaring over representation of the masculine narrative at the expense of its female counterpart. It is this forgotten narrative of the eccentric black woman in rock, which South African born photographer Paul Shiakallis sought to unearth in his work LeatheredSkins, Unchained Hearts.

Florah Dylon-Son Younggal Bison, Odi, Botswana

Vicky Sinka, Gaborone, Botswana

Katie Dekesu, Ghanzi, Botswana

“Being a rocker comes witha lot of discipline. Even though there is a lot of freedom itdoesn’t mean you misuse it we are part of a society and as such we should at alltimes act responsibly. Being rockers we are united by our love for our music andas such we are brothers and sisters of metal. We are role models in our societythats why we support each other, our bands and the vulnerable in our society”

Adorned in tassels, studded leather, spikes and chains, these women have cemented their place in the movement. They appear an enigma, far removed from the docile and inanimate global representation of black women. Set among ordinary and familiar surroundings, extended farm lands, endless skies, white domestic walls, worn sofas and tired kitchen cupboards; these women, some mothers and others wives, are a blunt rebellion amidst the ordinary of their lives. Dressed as though prepared for battle, head regalia fit for queens and capes of black magic, they invite the imagination to wonder about their place in the world.

Millie Hans, Gaborone, Botswana

“like anywhere in the world, here in Botswana people think I am a Satanist because of the black clothes. Satanism is usually associated with darkness.... they think I belong to the dark side and I usually try to explain that I pray to God and I am a Christian. Not all of us are Satanists haha, but when the music play sometimes I think differently…”

Phoenix Tonahs, Slaughter, Ghanzi, Botswana.

“i believe girl rockers have strong voice over a normal society coz to be one u got to beoutspoken and strong as we are always criticized. I believe facebook allows uto be who u are. only girls who believe on themselvs nd nt afraid to expressthemselves can be rockers.”

Bonolo, Gaborone, Botswana

For over twelve months Shiakallis immersed himself in the chasms of their alter egos, fascinated by how these women escape the four walls and wired fences of social conditioning and enter into the infinite possibilities that metal music holds for them

The work translates the way in which various modes of identity are transferred between day and night, the placid reality of life in Botswana versus the depiction of colourful individuality on social media, the loyalty to one’s family name versus the liberty in a pseudonym. It is this very fluidity that exudes a sensuality and strength in the Marok women of Botswana.

Words by Mlilo Mpondo

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