South African photographer Franck Marshall found the unlikely subculture in the Republic of Botswana, taking their heavy metal style of dress very seriously. “There’s a competition between them to see who can look the most brutal,” says Marshall, who calls his subjects the renegades– ‘an underground minority rebelling against the status quo, redrawing the borders of both Heavy Metal and orthodox culture in Botswana’. The Heavy Metal subculture has at most since its conception consisted mainly of a caucasian, patriarchal and Eurocentric majority making the authenticity of these photographs more fascinating.
The individuals in Marshall’s photographs are on the fringe of a society already situated within the geographical and ideological space of the Other, concretizing his work in the fields of anthropology and post-colonialism.
In post colonial Botswana, whenever the African Deathmetal bands (they exist too) go on tour, the renegades will spend weeks preparing their leather, shining their belt buckles and boots. The subculture actually grew from a classic rock band that was formed in Botswana in the 70s and evolved through the decades.
While the renegades incorporate that aggressive side of metal into their look, “there’s a strong sense of camaraderie amongst them,” says Marshall, “They’ve got a very strong bond and friendship with each other.” Seen as role models in society and often followed by a trail of young children in awe, they’re seen as protectors of the community with a strong awareness of social responsibility.
Tribe-like, Heavy Metal possesses an unconscious sense of brotherhood that transcends race and nationality in the context of Renegades. So too, Marshall’s renegades unpack popular stereotypes, transcending traditions, blurring the boundaries between liberty and fraternity, helping to delineate the power structures inherent to Heavy Metal, which may be misinterpreted as a trace of an oppressive past. This is in keeping with the extremism of Heavy Metal ideology, embracing anything that popular culture finds unacceptable.