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Marshall.pdf

Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University

Visions of Renegades

Author(s): Frank Marshall

Source: Transition , No. 109, Persona (2012), pp. 63-71

Published by: Indiana University Press on behalf of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University

Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/transition.109.63

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Ghost. Black and white photograph. © 2010 Frank Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Rooke Gallery.

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Marshall • Visions of Renegades 63

Visions of Renegades

Transition speaks with photographer Frank Marshall about heavy metal in Botswana

Frank Marshall: My parents listened to bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Butterfly when they were young. But they never listened to it full on. My older sister got me into Metallica, Guns N Roses, Nirvana, and Def Leppard when I was around ten years old. Then as I entered my teens I really got into it and started buying the records for myself. I discovered the metal community in Botswana by chance when I was traveling in Botswana with a South African metal band. They had been invited to play a show in Bots alongside local bands.

TRANSITION: Can you describe the scene at a metal show?

Marshall: Rockers in Botswana wear cowboy boots and hats. You can buy them at Cut Price, a shop in Gaborone. It’s the most expensive shop for rockers and sells exclusively metal paraphernalia. Here you find every- thing from Motorhead patches to Guns N Roses flags, which fans sometimes wear as capes. Iron Maiden and Cannibal Corpse shirts are the most common band t-shirts you see. Many of the local bands also produce their own t-shirts, which are also a common sight at concerts.

There are quite a few of rockers who buy leathers and modify them with studs and interesting add-ons. They keep them for themselves, or they will often sell or trade them among one another. A couple of the rockers work as rangers for local games reserves, so they pick up things in the bush and assimi- late them. It isn’t uncommon to see them wearing baboon skulls on chains around their necks or carrying animal horns, which they drink beer from.

Some of the fans are steel workers, who craft unique looking staffs or walking sticks. I’ve seen a couple guys carrying shovels and steel pipes with them to gigs. They use these as symbolic items, not for hurting anyone.

The fans usually muster outside the venues before the shows start. Then you see guys show up on their motorcycles. One thing they do is travel in convoy with military precision. If you’re lucky you can see a whole group of fans marching in single file toward the venue. You hear them before you see them. Sometimes you hear an awkward silence followed by cheers and shouts by onlookers in the street. Their presence just overpowers everything.

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64 Transition 109

TRANSITION: Who attends metal shows? What are the demographics?

Marshall: They are mostly modest, working-class folk. They come from all over Botswana and many of them travel from far and wide to attend shows—often as much as 500 km from small villages and remote areas. It doesn’t faze them at all. They sometimes pool their money together to hire a minibus to drive to a show.

Most of the people at shows are devout fans, but I’ve recently heard reports that an increasing number of ‘regular people’ have been turning up at shows to see what it’s all about. I’d say that for every ten men, there are around two to three women. But I think the number of women is increasing quite rapidly. Most of the audience is in their twenties and thirties, but there are some much older ones like ‘Poison The Legend’ or ‘Old Gun.’

TRANSITION: How do rockers greet each other? Are there any special handshakes?

Drag the Waters (Metal).

Black and white photograph.

© 2010 Frank Marshall.

Courtesy of the artist and

Rooke Gallery.

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Marshall • Visions of Renegades 65

Marshall: You often see two friends greet one another with a kind of showdown cowboy jig where they circle each other and perform martial arts moves. Chuck Norris, with Walker Texas Ranger, made a mark. They like to demonstrate their combat prowess in a playful display, like brothers who roughhouse. Guys like Gunsmoke are kung fu practitioners. He has represented Botswana in national martial arts competitions.

TRANSITION: What are the day jobs of the rockers in these photos?

Marshall: Gunsmoke is a museum curator. Hardcore is a prison warden. Quite a few work for the government, like Joster. Generally speaking, the guys from Jwaneng are usually employed at the large diamond mines there; in Maun, at the Okavongo Delta, many of them are employed in the tourist industry on the delta. Phantom Lord Ishmael is a soldier in the Botswana army.

TRANSITION: Who is the most famous metal performer in Botswana?

Venerated Villain (Kenosi). Black and white photograph. © 2010 Frank Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Rooke Gallery.

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66 Transition 109

Marshall: It is, of course, subjective. I’d have to put it between Stux Daemon of Wrust and Giuseppe Sbrana of Skinflint.

TRANSITION: How is metal in Botswana different from the metal scene in the West?

Marshall: Black Sabbath and Manowar are gods in the pantheon of metal. The geography may be different but the heart is just as (if not more) zealous than even the most devout scenes elsewhere in the world. The overall ethos of the Botswana scene is very raw and honest.

In terms of music, the metal scene in Bots has its own style. African culture remains evident. One of my favorite bands is called Remuda and they hail from Maun. They sound like the African version of Thin Lizzy meets Motorhead.

In the West, there is now a flashiness or pretentiousness that is very commercial. In my opinion, what is happening in Botswana probably more resembles what metal was like thirty years ago in the Bay Area Thrash

Siera. Black and white

photograph. © 2010 Frank

Marshall. Courtesy of

the artist and Rooke Gallery.

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Marshall • Visions of Renegades 67

scene: when it truly was a counterculture and the style of music utterly rejected and defied the mainstream.

TRANSITION: Do authorities ever interfere with metal shows?

Marshall: The authorities tolerate the shows. However, most of the clubs and the venues are required by law to cease playing by around midnight. The police show up like clockwork.

TRANSITION: What’s your impression of the racial climate within the metal scene?

Marshall: In Botswana, the rockers have never really mixed with white metal-heads from the so-called “outside world.” Metal’s inherent whiteness is largely a moot point for them. They certainly admire and respect the performers of metal from the U.S. and U.K. whom they idolize like anyone else would. In some ways they admire those performers more than con- temporary Western metal fans do. But they don’t get to watch these bands

Neo Rock. Black and white photograph. © 2010 Frank Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Rooke Gallery.

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68 Transition 109

from overseas with the regularity and ease a Westerner could. So in short, they have no racial prejudices whatsoever: this was certainly the case in my own experience in being there. I never felt an awkward moment where it was like “Oh…I’m the only white dude here.”

Whether or not guys like Eric Adams of Manowar or James Hetfield of Metallica are white has no bearing on how fans in Botswana view or perceive and appreciate the music. They seem to be oblivious to how race figures into metal in both the global contemporary and historical sense. It was a very endearing thing to behold for me. I’ve never brought up these issues with them in conversation because it didn’t seem to matter to them at all.

TRANSITION: Have racist and white supremacist groups in Southern Africa appropriated metal?

Marshall: I assume you are referring to the shootings at the Sikh Temple in the U.S.? Well, I think that the media incorrectly labeled the U.S. hard- core band Hatebreed as one of those groups that incites violence. They

The New Number Six.

Black and white photograph.

© 2010 Frank Marshall.

Courtesy of the artist and

Rooke Gallery.

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Marshall • Visions of Renegades 69

were pigeonholed along with the guy who perpetrated the shootings, who also had a hardcore band.

In August 2012, Wade Michael Page shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple. He was a member of the hardcore neo-Nazi bands End Apathy and Definite Hate. Hardcore is a distinct musical genre from metal.

Hatebreed plays very positive and empowering music. They champion the underdogs in a lot of their music and have taken an active stance against the problem of bullying. They are a great band. White supremacists haven’t appropriated death metal. It was hardcore that the media pointed at. Hard- core is more often associated with skinheads. Why? I really don’t know the answer to that.

To my knowledge, there aren’t bands with any significant white suprema- cist leanings in Southern Africa and certainly not in Botswana . There are, of course, anti-religious themes in the lyrics of some bands in SA, but nothing that doesn’t resemble what you’d expect to hear from similar bands on the international scale. I don’t know of metal bands here that have incited any sort of violence or discrimination. Some bands deal with political and racial

Sarah. Black and white photograph. © 2010 Frank Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Rooke Gallery.

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70 Transition 109

issues in their lyrics. Most notably would be the songs like ‘Witman’ (white man) or ‘Doodstraf’ (death penalty) by a prolific local metal band called KOBUS! Their lyrics are very intelligent and often have a sarcastic tone with regards to issues dealing with crime or race. In terms of the latter, for example in the song Witman, they focus on the white man who feels disenfranchised in “The New South Africa” in a kind or morbid but sarcastic way.

TRANSITION: What about the violence in death metal music?

Marshall: The death metal bands deal with the themes of gore, murder, war, and violence in a kind of fictional and comic book fashion. It’s the same in Botswana as in the rest of the world. I’d say metal music, although aggressive, has a positive and empowering effect. The sonic power helps people to deal with the problems of life. It gives you strength. I think that aggressive and extreme forms of music have done more to release or express rage or tension—in a safe way—than to cause or incite hatred or violence. Metal is a positive force, despite what some people might say.

No Need for Mercy

With a Fist Full of Hate

(Undertaker). Black and white

photograph. © 2010 Frank

Marshall. Courtesy of

the artist and Rooke Gallery.

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Marshall • Visions of Renegades 71

TRANSITION: Have people been hurt at death metal shows?

Marshall: Randy Blythe, the front man of Lamb of God, was locked up for over a month in the Czech Republic. He allegedly injured a fan who had come onto stage, who later hit his head, causing a concussion which lead to his death. In 2004 Dimebag Darrel of Pantera was shot to death on stage by a crazed fan.

It’s easy to blame the music for these events, but it isn’t a fair criticism in my opinion. People get killed every day for a myriad of reasons and in many different circumstances. It’s just an easy sell for the press to say the music caused these deaths.

TRANSITION: How are the mosh pits in Botswana?

Marshall: The shows in Botswana are not big enough for things like circle pits or the ‘wall of death.’ The mosh pits aren’t as physical as what you’d experience at a Lamb of God or Slayer show. Fans prefer to dance, head- bang, and play air guitar. They will often climb up the rafters and hang upside down and do piggy back-riding. They don’t purposefully or mali- ciously hurt each other. I’ve never seen that happen. If someone falls, they help them up. I mean, people do pick up cuts and bruises but nothing serious.

We go to shows to enjoy the music. We don’t go to be thugs or to bully others. All eyes are on the bands playing.

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