The metalheads of the Makgadikgadi

Posted on 20 August 2015

Just over a year ago, at Botswana’s first large-scale skydiving event, I had an encounter with the most unlikely subculture: the metalheads of Botswana.


From left: Venom, Sheriff, Vanilla and Punk Lord.

The setting is overpowering: harsh sunlight reflects off the barren, flat mud-cracked Makgadikgadi pans, planes fly overhead and parachuters skid to the ground in dust clouds. In between dodging landing pads, I notice a group of tasselled men walking towards me. My attention is immediately caught.

No. Ways. The men are dressed in biker-black leather, Iron Maiden shirts and Aviator sunglasses. They are oozing swag. I feel like I’ve walked onto the set of Django Unchained. What are they doing out here, in the middle of post-apocalyptic nowhere? Buoyed by disbelief, I head over to the group and strike up a conversation.

Venom (far left) tells me the story of his journey into this unique subculture, totally different from anything you would expect to find in Botswana.


‘I was inspired by bands like Iron Maiden, Greenday and U2 back in 2000. In the beginning, most people assumed that our dress-style and music had to do with a religious (or even Satanic) choice. Through festivals and campaigns, the metal subculture has slowly changed that belief. We have invited many and they have realised that they were characterising us under what we are not. What I like most about this subculture is that it brings all metalheads together. We become one family countrywide and worldwide’


I ask him if the group will return to the Makgadikadi pans in 2015.


‘Maybe. Maybe we will ride in on horses next time’.


At that, my imagination went riot.

See some of the images we took below, and keep an eye out for these guys when you’re next in Botswana.


Some clothing is sourced from Thai and US imports, the rest is made locally.

Some clothing is sourced from Thai and US imports, the rest is made locally.


Vanilla. The group are scattered around Botswana depending on employment.

Punk Lord. Horns are an important accessory, becoming symbols of Africa.


Venom and Sheriff. The group are unified by their love of music and the rockstar lifestyle of partying and touring the country.


Special thanks to Venom for your help, and to Punk Lord, Sheriff and Vanilla for being generally awesome. I hope to catch up with you all again someday.



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