HALALA

Meet The Gender-Bending Metalheads Destroying Patriarchy In Botswana

The "Marok" come to life in extraordinary images.

06/11/2017 11:28 SAST | Updated 06/11/2017 15:56 SAST
Paul Shiakallis

The "Marok", a community of gender-bending heavy-metal women rockers in Botswana, have caught the attention of the world. By day they are police and military officers, housewives and government administrators – but when the sun sets, they don their leathers, crank up the music, and leave their other lives behind.

South African photojournalist Paul Shiakallis spent some time with and documented the "queens", as the Marok call themselves, and the result was Leathered Skins, Unchained Hearts, an extraordinary set of images first released in 2015 that give a glimpse into the lives of the women who have found their place in this new, alternative community.

Shiakallis shed some light on his time working with the Marok in an updated interview with I-D.

Due to the conservative nature of Batswana society, most of the women featured in the pictures have to strictly separate their "rock" from their traditional lives, Shiakallis explains in the interview.

"It's not easy for women to just outright tell people they are a Marok," Shiakallis says.

"Women from this demographic in Botswana [are expected to be] submissive, polite, ladylike and decent. It was the most surreal thing to see them expressing themselves outside of these expectations. The defiance they express is really important in the fight for women's basic rights, even if some of the queens don't realise it. They have made their mark in history and will hopefully inspire others to challenge such social inequalities."

They create separate Facebook profiles where they use their rock names such as Vicky Sinka, Millie Hans and Phoenix Tonahs Slaughter.

"[On Facebook] They will have pictures of family and kids, birthday messages and inspirational quotes, teddy bears and flowers, and then the next post will be of a skeleton up in flames biting the head off a baby. Then the next post is of them in church clothes and then in full leather regalia pulling zaps at the camera," Shiakallis says.

Follow the photographer on Instagram to see the full set of images.