After the emergence of classic rock during the 1970s, metal music became a stronghold in Botswana’s music scene. Dismissing all orthodox preconceptions of what it meant to be ‘black’ and ‘African’, a subculture of black metal-heads known as the ‘Marok’ evolved – translated as ‘rocker’ in Setswana. The Marok present a stark contrast to the stereotypical, desolate image årt in the documentation of this subculture. It is this forgotten narrative of the eccentric black woman in rock, which South African born photographer Paul Shiakallis sought to unearth in his work Leathered Skins, Unchained Hearts.
Adorned in tassels, studded leather, spikes, and chains, these women have cemented their place in the movement. They appear as enigmas, far removed from the docile and inanimate global representation of black women. Set among ordinary and familiar surroundings – extended farm lands, endless skies, white domestic walls, worn sofas, and tired kitchen cupboards – these women, some mothers and others wives, represent blunt rebellion amidst the mundanity of the quotidian. Dressed as though prepared for battle, head regalia fit for queens and capes of black magic, they invite the viewer to consider their place in the world.
Words by Mlilo Mpondo