Exploring the Wild West fashions of Botswana’s heavy metal scene

Written by on 30/11/2022

This story originally appeared in i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022. Order your copy here.

Heavy metal is not background music. It is not the sort of music fans listen to in order to mindlessly distract themselves from the mundanity of the world around them: it’s music someone listens to in order to push back against the status quo. Metal is honest. It holds a mirror up to society and reflects its flaws. It celebrates outsiders and those who feel different.

Metal is a spirit and an attitude as well as a musical style. It’s a way of standing out and standing apart. In terms of style, that sentiment has long been translated outwardly through fans who represent their favourite bands on their T-shirts, alongside a wardrobe of dusted-out, haggard leather jackets with self-stitched patches, denim jeans, worn canvas sneakers or boots that mean business. It’s a style that has, since its inception, found roots across the world: from Scandinavia to Japan, Brazil to Turkey. It has also found roots in Africa – most noticeably in Botswana.

Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Boyke wears jacket and hat model’s own. T-shirt vintage NACO courtesy of Passage. Chainblock wears coat PRADA SS23. Hat, bandana and jewellery model’s own. Mental Case wears jacket courtesy of NY Vintage. Hat model’s own. Crow wears jacket vintage courtesy of Costume Studio. Jumper MARNI SS23. Hat model’s own. Dals Leppard wears waistcoat vintage courtesy of Costume Studio. Hat and earring model’s own. Psycho wears coat Y/ PROJECT. T-shirt vintage courtesy of The National Theatre. Hat and chain model’s own.

The MaRock, as metal fans are known in Botswana, are often celebrated for the raw passion they exude for heavy metal and the idiosyncratic style they’ve brought to the subculture: part classic metal looks, part hardcore punk attitude, part Wild West cowboys.

They are known for sporting head-to-toe leather – boots, hats, belts, vests, jackets, chaps – and for the bombastic monikers they use, pulled from the recesses of heavy metal’s wild subconscious: Trooper, Gunsmoke, Viper Lawless, Mental Case, Suicide Torment, and Vulture.

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Fans have been known to include props as a way of distinguishing themselves from others too, incorporating ropes, chains, whips, masks, skulls, animal bones, crosses, and plenty of metal spikes. Others opt for accessories that are just plain over-the-top. One notable fan is known as the “tea guy,” and attaches a tea set to his belt, including a teacup, plate, and spoon. The MaRock have turned their passion for metal into a small competition to be more extreme than anyone else.

The metal world in the West had a leather penchant once too, embodied on Motörhead’s famed Ace of Spades album cover or by iconic Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford (one of the band’s classics is even called “Hellbent for Leather”). Yet leather’s once-near ubiquitous use has fallen largely by the wayside, and heavy metal has become a subculture with an unconventional, virtually antagonistic relationship to the fashion world. But the MaRock are undoubtedly stylish and this scene – which has blossomed mostly in isolation over the past two decades – has grown in interest to those around the world who value individuality and expression in the way people dress.

Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Chainblock wears jacket SANKUANZ. T-shirt courtesy of Found & Vision. Belt vintage courtesy of Costume Studio. Jeans, hat, glove and boots model’s own. Boyke wears coat SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO. T-shirt vintage VENERA ARAPU courtesy of Passage. Jeans vintage HELMUT LANG courtesy of David Casavant Archive. Hat, scarf, belt and boots model’s own. Psycho wears coat LUAR SS23. T-shirt courtesy of Found & Vision. Chaps New York Vintage. Jeans ROBERTO CAVALLI. Hat, jewellery, glove, belt and boots model’s own.

Botswana’s heavy metal scene has evolved, since the formation of the band Nosey Road in the 70s, to become one of the most visible music scenes in the African continent. Whether it is the ferocious, ear-grabbing pummeling of venerated metal acts that include Overthrust, Skinflint, and Wrust, or the superbly passionate fan base, there’s something uplifting in it.

Vulture says it is this scene’s sense of community and kinship that has not only helped local bands reach overseas audiences, but also bonded them together in the name of benevolence. The mastermind behind the Overthrust Winter Metal Mania Festival, which has been held in the country’s northern city of Ghanzi continually for over thirteen years, the MaRock have helped him raise money for local orphanages, food banks and schools. October of 2022 also marked the debut of Vulture Thrust Metal Fest, a festival he organised in the central Botswana village of Rakops, his hometown, which features multiple days of head-banging fury to raise funds for children living with disabilities.

Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Mental Case wears hat and earring model’s own. Psycho wears coat LUAR SS23. T-shirt courtesy of Found & Vision. Chaps New York Vintage. Jeans ROBERTO CAVALLI. Hat, jewellery and belt model’s own.

Sonically, the metal of Botswana is very much in line with the templates established by metal’s iconic acts, while forging a niche of their own, wavering between grit, fury, and precision. The punk-infested death metal of Overthrust, layered skin-tight grooves of Wrust, the Iron Maiden-esque touch of Skinflint, the fury of STANE, and the grabbing hooks of Metal Orizon, are just a sample of what Botswana’s metal scene has been crafting. Given Botswana’s economic and social stability, bands here use their music to discuss mental health issues, loss, and even aspects of their country’s history, while mainly avoiding the political themes that their neighbours in South Africa or counterparts in Kenya have come to embrace.

For Overthrust vocalist and bassist Vulture, the MaRock have made themselves so noticeable and known for a simple reason: “Because they feel special, confident, powerful and unique. They feel like metal in a plastic society, they feel like the machines of the world and as such, they seek attention.”

Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Midnight wears chaps AMBUSH SS23. Jeans, hat, bandana, jewellery, scarf and belt model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Mental Case and Dals Leppard wear all clothing and jewellery model’s own.
ohp_BOTSWANA_BW19 35mm_FIN.jpg

Forest wears all clothing model’s own. Psycho wears jacket DIOR. Chaps New York Vintage. Jeans ROBERTO CAVALLI. T-shirt and jewellery model’s own. Mental Case wears jacket, bandana and boots model’s own. Jeans HELMUT LANG courtesy of David Casavant Archive.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Chainblock wears jeans Y/PROJECT SS23. Boxers and hat model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Crow wears jacket vintage and belt courtesy of Costume Studio. Jumper MARNI SS23. Jeans DSQUARED2 Resort 23. Boxers, hat and bandana model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Chainblock wears coat THE ROW SS23. All clothing and boots model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Coat, top, shorts and boots PRADA SS23. Hat and glove model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Midnight wears jacket Y’s. Hat and bandana model’s own. Crow wears jacket vintage courtesy of Costume Studio. T-shirt courtesy of The National Theatre. Trousers vintage courtesy of Found & Vision. Hat, bandana and belt model’s own. Chainblock wears coat THE ROW SS23. Bandana model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Boyke wears coat and trousers MARNI. T-shirt vintage NACO courtesy of Passage. Hat, scarf, belt and boots model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Rock Angel wears jacket ROBERTO CAVALLI. All clothing and jewellery model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Dals Leppard wears coat, jewellery and belt model’s own. Shorts LOUIS VUITTON. Hat courtesy of The National Theatre. Boots PRADA.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Mental Case wears jacket vintage courtesy of Costume Studio. T-shirt vintage JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER courtesy of Rellik. Jeans courtesy of David Casavant Archive. Hat, jewellery, and belt model’s own. Boots PRADA. Psycho wears waistcoat COACH. T-shirt, hat, jewellery, belt and boots model’s own. Chaps New York Vintage. Jeans ROBERTO CAVALLI.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Mental Case wears jeans MARNI. Belt (under) vintage courtesy of Costume Studio. Belt (over) NANNI courtesy of Rellik. Hat and jewellery model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Chainblock wears coat and shirt YOHJI YAMAMOTO. Jeans HELMUT LANG courtesy of David Casavant Archive. Bag vintage VIVIENNE WESTWOOD courtesy of Rellik. Hat, jewellery, belt and boots model’s own. Psycho wears coat Y/PROJECT SS23. Jeans ROBERTO CAVALLI. Chaps New York Vintage. Hat, jewellery, belt and boots model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Psycho wears hat and jewellery model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Psycho wears T-shirt courtesy of Found & Vision. All clothing and jewellery model’s own.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

(From left to right and back row to front row) Boyke wears coat BURBERRY. T-shirt vintage NACO courtesy of Passage. Jeans vintage HELMUT LANG courtesy of David Casavant Archive. Hat, scarf and belt model’s own. Rock Angel wears jacket ROBERTO CAVALLI. All clothing and jewellery model’s own. Chainblock wears coat THE ROW SS23. T-shirt, belt, jewellery and boots model’s own. Jeans vintage HELMUT LANG courtesy of David Casavant Archive. Dals Leppard wears coat Y/PROJECT SS23. Jeans UNDERCOVER. T-shirt, hat, jewellery and belt model’s own. Boots PRADA. Forest wears all clothing model’s own. Seth wears all clothing model’s own. Crow wears jacket vintage courtesy of Costume Studio. T-shirt courtesy of The National Theatre. Trousers vintage Dolce & Gabbana courtesy of Found & Vision. Hat and belt model’s own. Mental Case wears jacket, hat, jewellery and belt model’s own. T-shirt vintage JEAN COLONNA courtesy of Passage. Jeans HELMUT LANG courtesy of David Casavant Archive. Midnight wears jacket GIVENCHY. Chaps AMBUSH SS23. Jeans, hat, scarf, jewellery and boots model’s own. Psycho wears jacket DIOR. T-shirt, belt, jewellery and boots model’s own. Chaps New York Vintage. Jeans ROBERTO CAVALLI.
Botswana's heavy metal scene in cowboy outfits photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch for i-D’s The Royalty Issue, no. 370, Winter 2022

Midnight wears jacket GIVENCHY. Chaps AMBUSH SS23. Hat, bandana, scarf, and jewellery model’s own. Crow wears jacket vintage courtesy of Costume Studio. T-shirt courtesy of The National Theatre. Trousers vintage courtesy of Found & Vision. Hat, bandana and belt model’s own. Rock Angel wears jacket ROBERTO CAVALLI. Trousers, hat, scarf, jewellery and boots model’s own.

Credits


Photographer Oliver Hadlee Pearch
Fashion Carlos Nazario
Hair and make up Alet Viljoen at *SNCM using NARS
Photography assistance John Second
Fashion assistance Manuel Noriega Torres, Edna Rosen and Ncinci Motsemme
Tailor Gaekgone Lesego
Tailoring assistance Dorcus Mabe
Production Baker & Co.
Casting by Tshomarelo Mosaka aka Vulture Thrust. Models Mental Case, Psycho, Chainblock, Crow, Midnight, Forest, Boyke, Seth, Hunter, Dals Leppard and Rock Angel


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