Living the Fuck Out LoudMusic
botswana’s metal subculture festival rocks
July 1, 2019
Photographs and text by Lee-Roy Jason
People often ask me why I relish in shooting at music festivals and the answer, quite simply, is that I have found there’s a particular magic that hangs in the air and permeates the space at these events.
This brand of magic is called freedom. The freedom to unmask, to break away from societal constraints and labels in order to be whichever version of yourself suits you best. The Overthrust Winter Metal Mania Festival in Botswana was no exception.
As we made our way to the host town of Ghanzi, my mind was already buzzing thinking of how long it took me to finally get here. It was many years ago in an old thrift store, in the heart of Johannesburg’s CBD when I first heard about the splendor of this festival. I had been trying on a leather jacket when the store owner told me stories about what I may find here.
Looking through the window while driving through this small town, happily taking it all in I spotted a Black couple buying veggies from a local vendor draped in leather and chains, confident and comfortable as if they had just stepped off the “Thunderdome” movie set. That’s when it hit me fully that I was in another realm. Eccentric is the standard here so I knew right there and then that I was in for a visual treat.
And then there I was, watching the urban legend unfold in front of me, in awe seeing something that I thought was synonymous with white skinheads being adopted and reshaped by Black people in a town located eight hours outside the capital city of Botswana. A stereotype shattered (and rightfully so). I wasn’t alone; I met people from around the world who were just as fascinated as I was by how heavy metal has become such a big part of Ghanzi’s culture.
At first glance the Overthrust Winter Metal Mania Fest appears to be all about headbanging, mosh pits and badass metalheads partying from sunrise to sunset but being in the thick of it I learned it is so much more than that. It’s the celebration of a sub-culture and community that has formed its unique identity with its music, shared values, and sense of charity. With the proceeds from the festival split between a local children’s home and the family of fallen Overthrust drummer Gakeitse Botlhalentwa aka Suicide Torment, the love of community is undeniable. And the juxtaposition of those two images informed my use of color and B&W, hardcore poses and tender kisses shared by couples, full skull paint, and branded t-shirts all coming together to create a well-balanced experience.
As I walked around partaking in the festivities my reason for being there was clear. I had to document this festival not only for its visual appeal but also to inform other Black heavy metal listeners and enthusiasts that they are not alone, that there is a special place where they fit in, a place they can call their own. I am forever grateful to my Jagermeister family for helping bring this achieve this and bring this dream to life.
There is a joyous feeling when witnessing and capturing people who are swayed by the music they love, surrounded by the energy they understand, decked out in a spirited fashion that makes me enjoy what I do.
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