The White Devil And His Music: The Heavy Metal Subculture of Black Africa
IS HEAVY Metal, the music sound hewn in the British Midlands, big in black, sub-Saharan Africa? South African photographer Franck Marshall found a throbbing pocket of metal in Botswana.
The metallers have cracking names. The chap above calls himself “Death”.
This is “White Devil”:
The blurb for his gallery exhibition – it accompanies his book – tells viewers:
Heavy Metal audiences have traditionally been Caucasian, Patriarchal, and Eurocentric, making Marshall’s portraits parodies of heavy metal lore envisaging the multiple polarities of the subculture’s social strata. Renegades is thus a sociological case study of an underground minority rebelling against the status quo, redrawing the borders of both Heavy Metal and orthodox culture in Botswana.
Dead Demon Rider I
Let’s not over analyse. Don’t they just like the music and the fashion? Are they rebelling, or are do the metal heads have more in common with the suburban white kids immersed in US gangster rap?
The Rooke Gallery blurb then gets worse:
Resultantly, Marshall creates a sense of affirmation for his renegades, specifically exploring impressions of performativity, authenticity and mythology. Marshall decodes the visual rhetoric of his renegades by making apparent the modification and hybridization of a predominantly western subculture in Botswana. The unique topology and physiognomy of each character effectively communicates the spirit imbued by the appearance of Botswana’s often-uninviting Heavy Metal subculture.
The full horror of the catalogue blurb is here. I’m temped to publish the full thing but it takes so much away from the delightful photographs.
…the Batswana have annexed unclaimed cultural territory, seizing a sense of authenticity and ownership, in turn upending the order of ‘Otherness’ by ‘colonizing’ a Western subculture. In this context, visibility equals worth, where music is a material currency, and 2 performance is an unmasking agent revealing the West as a perpetrator of inauthenticity. To ‘colonize’, based on the humanist pedestal of Greco- Roman ethics, leading into Christian moralism, Eurocentric narcissism, ending in Modernist utopianism is negated by the primal, pagan, pre- Hellenistic tribalism, tolerating the Batswana to embrace a ‘cult of Dionysius’ as it were; representing the marginal folklore of Heavy Metal regardless of ethnicity, simply because it speaks the language of tragedy.
Jeeebus. Just play it loud, man. It’s about the music. Thuto Motladiile of the band Skeletal Saints, tells Vice:
“The reason we have a majority black scene here isn’t because of racism – everyone comes, whites and blacks, provided the gig is in a safe and secure place. But I think it’s mostly black guys who turn up because we want to give each other support.”
“The costumes are like an arms race amongst the scene members. There’s a competition between them to see who can look the most brutal. When I was in Botswana, I was carrying around a few of the previous metaller portraits I’d done. The locals admired the guys in them. But they also felt compelled to raise their sartorial games.”
Lemmy Kilmister put it better:
“People who work in a factory, right, or some awful fu**ing mind-numbing job like that – ‘cause I worked in a factory, I know what it’s like; it’s fu**ing awful, yeah? Most people have to do that kind of job that they hate every day of their lives. Can you imagine what that must be like? You have to submerge your intellect completely, right, and just, y’know, che cha, y’know, and all that. So, at the weekend, they want to hear something that tears the heart out of ‘em and gives it back better.”