In December 2015, Spanish photographer and filmmaker Pep Bonet, who has documented the aftermath of war in Sierra Leone and the global ravages of HIV/AIDS, set out for Botswana, in pursuit of a more positive Africa story.
A largely white genre, heavy-metal music has been gaining popularity in countries like South Africa and Kenya, Bonet says, but Botswana is the “pioneer.” At the heart of the scene is the band Overthrust, fronted by a singing, bass-playing cop named Tshomarelo Mosaka. “They don’t mind about color or race,” Bonet told me. “They believe heavy metal unites people.”
Lacking access to store-bought fashions, these local “hellbangers” create their own—embellishing leatherware with rivets, chains, and animal bones. (“Desert Super Power,” below, makes money crafting outfits for fellow metalheads.) “They look very similar, many of them, to the Ace of Spades album cover,” notes Bonet, a big metal fan himself, who is also known for his extensive work with the British band Motörhead. “It’s definitely a lifestyle. They live for this!”
“Hardcore Series” and “Dignified Queen” Pep Bonet/NOOR/Redux
“Blade” told Bonet: “I used to see music videos for Hammer Fall, and I liked the way they were looking onstage, dressed in leather pants and nice boots. I started buying metal attire and that’s how I became a rocker.”
“Lady Rocker”: I started listening to metal in 2002. I used to see rockers gathered in a bar dressed in leather pants, nice cowboy boots and hats. I admired and wanted to be one of them. I eventually started buying metal attire, t-shirts and leather pants. One day in 2002 I joined them, and they made me listen to Boston, Iron Maiden, and that’s how I became a rocker.
“Desert Super Power”: I work as an electrician and started listening to metal music in 2005. My grandfather was a cowboy, and I chose metal to combine with my lifestyle. I’m the leader of the super power crew, in the rock scene. The cowboy clothes match very well with metal music.
“Desert Super Power” designs clothes for the scene.