The Queens of Botswana's Heavy Metal Scene

Photographer Paul Shiakallis documents the women of Marok, a small but vibrant heavy metal subculture in Botswana.


It’s all too common for heavy metal scenes, no matter where they are, to be male-dominated. The case is no different in Botswana, a sparsely populated African country where love for metal music is a very small subculture.

Known as “Marok,” which means “rocker” in Setswana, the scene is regarded with suspicion by mainstream Botswana culture—especially when it comes to female Marok fans, who call themselves Queens. South African photographer Paul Shiakallis met some Queens at a show in capital city Gaborone and started shooting his series Leathered Skins, Unchained Hearts.

“Some Queens were reluctant to pose for photographs, wary about where the images would end up, as they’re still ‘coming out’ as rockers," Shiakallis told Hyperallergic. To make them more comfortable, he photographed them in their homes, contrasting these intimate, everyday environments with the tough facade of the Queen’s all-black outfits. Meditative shots of Botswana’s landscape also add depth to the series, creating a portrait that shows the soft side of a community known for loud, aggressive music.

“People think I am a Satanist because of the black clothes,” Marok fan Millie Hans told Shiakallis, adding, “I usually try to explain that I pray to God and I am a Christian.” Because of the frequent criticism Marok fans experience, many Queens create anonymous names for their metal alter egos, often dressing more conservatively in the daytime and only donning their leather and studs for a show or in Facebook photos.

“You got to be outspoken and strong as we are always criticized,” Queen Phoenix Tonah Slaughter told Shiakallis.

Scroll down to see Paul Shiakallis’s Leathered Skins, Unchained Hearts portrait series of heavy metal Queens in Botswana and discover more of his work on his portfolio, built using Format.

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