This project will focus on the distinctive marok subculture found in Botswana, Africa. Referring to themselves as rockers or marok, members style themselves with a European/American heavy metal aesthetic. A minority of this subculture have adopted a wardrobe drawing on cowboy imagery, which has some parallels elsewhere on the continent. The information generated by this research will be beneficial to the anthropological and art historical field, providing a new perspective on a little-known group of peoples; and exploring the wider phenomenon of adopting external styles in Africa, particularly at urban sites.
Previously a protectorate of the British Government, Botswana has actively pursued a modern identity since independence in 1966. My project will investigate how the marok embody the ‘modernity’ of Botswana, continuing the national trend for innovation. I will also demonstrate how the marok present a strong sense of local cultural history; and how the adopted Wild West aesthetics acknowledge their familial cattle-herding roots, playing an important role in the self-fashioning of the subculture. Although the marok are on the fringes of society, individual members have roles within the law enforcement, heritage and farming industries; demonstrating that the phenomenon covers both urban and rural areas.
This research will expand the study of visual and material culture in Botswana, and challenge long-standing images of Africa. The project will establish how participants use costuming and performance to empower themselves and create meaningful identities. I will also demonstrate how the use of cowboy and colonial imagery may be unique in Botswana, but has parallels elsewhere; such as the sapeurs of Kinshasa, known for their sartorial ostentation; and the cowboy gangs of Kinshasa and Durban in the early to mid 20th century.