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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 | More photos available in Pieter’s gallery.