The Hyena Men of Nigeria

Remember this photo? How could you not – it’s the black Mad Max with his bad-ass hyena. I knew it was from Nigeria but I didn’t know anything else, til now. The man is part of a group called Gadawan Kura or ‘hyena handlers’. These men were rumoured to be bank robbers, bodyguards, drug dealers, and debt collectors. Myth had surrounded these men until South African photographer Pieter Hugo visited Abuja in 2005 to and seek them out.

The men, a little girl, three hyenas, four monkeys, and a few rock pythons made up a group of minstrels who wandered the towns of Nigeria, entertaining people and selling traditional medicines. Over the 8 days that he spent with the performers, Hugo took photos whenever an opportunity presented itself. He returned two years later to engage with the group again.

Here are some of this portraits.

The full story is available at Pieterhugo.com | More photos available in Pieter’s gallery.

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7 Responses to “The Hyena Men of Nigeria”

  1. MurderDoll March 5, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    Shame man.
    That poor beast reduced down to a show animal.

    That is really wrong!!

    • prawn1 March 5, 2009 at 11:51 am #

      Thing is though, whilst it looks like animal cruelty to westerners, I think to the Nigerians, it’s more about economic survival – doing whatever they can to make it through this life.

      I was in Thailand some years back, and mahouts were dragging elephants through the busy city centre, asking people to buy sugar cane which they could then feed to the elephant. The mahout most likely used that money for alcohol. It was a truly saddening sight.

  2. Nobody March 6, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    Isn’t Photoshop great??

    • prawn1 March 6, 2009 at 7:51 am #

      @Nobody: What makes you think Photoshop has been used?

  3. Lucy Furr March 6, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    I’ve always wanted a hyena

  4. ComandoF March 6, 2009 at 1:38 pm #

    Some great pics. Ugly animal up close, and I am sure the handler will come off second best if they mistreated the animal.

    • prawn1 March 6, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

      @Commando: No doubt. Apparently their jaws can exert around 1600 pounds per square inch!