Man and hyena

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Apparently it’s tame so it’s probably okay even if its jaws can crush right on through your femur. But I agree, it’s still terrifying.

>The men, called “Gadawan Kura” (rough translation: “hyena guides”), were surrounded by myth and mystery and largely assumed to be drug dealers, bodyguards, thieves, and debt collectors. In fact they are itinerant performers who tame and work with hyenas, monkeys, and rock pythons to entertain and to sell traditional medicine. They are all related, and the tradition is passed down generation to generation. Through a journalist friend and a Nigerian reporter, Hugo was put in contact with the Gadawan Kura, who agreed to let Hugo travel with them for eight days. Two years later, with the project feeling unresolved, Hugo returned to Nigeria and took more photos. These images are more intimate, more informal, and reflect the trust and understanding the artist had developed with the hyena guides two years earlier and maintained over the interim.

>Hugo’s fascination with the men and their relationship with the animals—at times doting, at times brutal—led to this series. It was this paradoxical relationship, and not the spectacle that surrounded their performances, that led to Hugo’s portraits. Thematically, Hugo explores the hybridization of the urban and the wild; the interplay of dominance, submission, and codependence; and the fraught relationship we have with ourselves, nature, and animals. In his text on the series, Hugo writes:

>>When I asked Nigerians, “How do you feel about the way they treat animals,” the question confused people. Their responses always involved issues of economic survival. Seldom did anyone express strong concern for the well-being of the creatures. Europeans invariably only ask about the welfare of the animals, but this question misses the point. Instead, perhaps, we could ask why these performers need to catch wild animals to make a living. Or why they are economically marginalized. Or why Nigeria, the world’s sixth largest exporter of oil, is in such a state of disarray.


And while I’m at it, [here]( is the website of a museum where the photographer (Pieter Hugo) currently has an exhibition that includes other photographs of these badasses.

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