Photos

Botswana's Heavy Metal Cowboys Photographed In Gaborone

South African photographer Aldo Brincat photographs Botswana's heavy metal cowboys, the Ma Rock, for a new exhibition in Gaborone.

Photos provided by Aldo Brincat


When I talk to them about heavy metal culture, I say, why? They say, “we like it.” So I say, what music are you listening to? They say, “Dolly Parton.” Dolly Parton? And she’s the country element to this whole [thing]... I say okay, and heavy metal, what are you...? “Metallica.” I say okay what about... Papa Roach- “no, no, Metallica.” –Aldo Brincat

Last month, Okayafrica met the curator and photographer of Foreign Nationals, a photo exhibition in Gaborone, Botswana, established around a brotherhood of leather-clad men and women called the Ma Rock. Drawing from the visual aesthetics of heavy metal, WWE and American cowboys, the group is widely known throughout Botswana for the enigmatic style and spectacle that marks their appearance. The photos emerged through collaboration between rising South African-born/Botswana-based photographer Aldo Brincat and around fifteen members of the Botswana Ma Rock group.

Aldo is first and foremost an actor and theatre practitioner, and this was his first attempt at a full photography exhibition. Yet throughout the process he was drawn to the visually arresting performance, ritual and stylistic practices of the Maroka. The dichotomous sense of the absurd and spectacular was apparent in the Ma Rok’s entrance on the opening night at Sophie Lalonde Art gallery in Gaborone’s city centre. Atop the highest towers in Botswana, the group made their entrance in a theatrical display of macho stances and scowls amidst a teeming crowd of intrigued Gaborone’s intrigued locals and art intelligentsia. When I spoke with Aldo he made it clear that even he was struck by the unsettling sense of representing a group without a coherent philosophy or manifesto. This is not the first time the Ma Rok have drawn the attention of international creatives and media. They have been described as “homoerotic cowboy metalheads” by VICE, “rebels with a cause” by CNN, and “bunny-hugging metalheads” by the Dutch VPRO Metropolis. These fraught attempts to describe the Ma Rok get at the problems inherent in western popular media representing the culture and people of a small African population internationally. When Aldo spoke to them about heavy metal music, their widely varied responses to the so-called subculture indicated to him that the brotherhood was based more on performativity and self-expression than a strict dogma rooted in heavy metal culture or late 50s western aesthetics.

After speaking with Aldo, it became apparent that Batswana who attended the exhibition also sought to experience the dynamite charge of the self-styled Ma Rok threaded through each pose. Local responses to the exhibition ranged from “... uh yeah I dunno, it was cool. Just photos of the Ma Rok really,” to “absolutely exquisite. I even bought a [$600] piece. Go and see it.” Yet the disparity in reception is tinged by an overarching note of positivity. Batswana are proud to see a part of the community represented in the prints, performances and palimpsests of the small and vibrant art scene in Gaborone.

Natasha Mmonatau was born and raised in Botswana and studies history at Stanford University.

Music
Image: Nabsolute Media

Reekado Banks Recalls The Carnage of The #EndSARS Protests In Single 'Ozumba Mbadiwe'

The Nigerian singer pays his respects to those lost during last year's #EndSARS protests.

Nigerian singer and songwriter Reekado Banks is back with a track that is as socially important as it is a banger. It seems fitting for the singer's first solo release of the year to be a tribute to his fellow countrypeople fighting for a country that they all wish to live in. The 27-year-old Afrobeats crooner has returned with endearing track 'Ozumba Mbadiwe', honoring the one-year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests that saw the Nigerian government authorize an onslaught of attacks on Nigerian citizens for their anti-government demonstrations.

The protests took the world by storm, additionally because the Nigerian government insists that none of the police brutality happened. In an attempt to gaslight the globe, Nigerian officials have come out to hoards to deny any and all accusations of unlawfully killing peaceful protesters. Banks mentions the absurd denials in the track, singing "October 20, 2020 something happened with the government, they think say we forget," in the second verse. Reekado's reflective lyrics blend smoothly and are supported by the upbeat, effortless Afrobeat rhythm.

In another reflective shoutout to his home, 'Ozumba Mbadiwe' is named after a popular expressway on Lagos Island that leads to the infamous Lekki Toll Gate where protesters were shot at, traumatized, and murdered. Although packed with conscious references, the P.Priime produced track is a perfect amalgamation of the talents that Reekado Banks has to offer; a wispy opening verse, a hook to kill, and an ethereal aura to mark this as a song as a hit. On "Ozumba Mbadiwe," all the elements align for Reekado's signature unsinkable sound to take flight.

Check out Reekado Bank's lyric video for his single 'Ozumba Mbadiwe'

Reekado Banks - Ozumba Mbadiwe (Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

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