From the series The Hyena and Other Men, Photographs, 2005-2007
Pieter Hugo presents a body of photographic work created on two trips to Nigeria, where he joined a troop of itinerant local "entertainers" who called themselves "Gadawan Kura" (or "Hyena Handlers"). The group consisted of a few men-all related to each other-and a little girl, three hyenas, four monkeys, and a few pythons. They wandered through the country, making their living by performing and by selling traditional medicine. The artist realized that what he found fascinating was "the hybridization of the urban and the wild, and the paradoxical relationship that the handlers have with their animals-sometimes doting and affectionate, sometimes brutal and cruel." In Hugo's photographs, the identity of the dominating entity is somewhat unclear; the hyena handlers hold their power over their wild animals by evident, brutal force, whereas the hyenas appear ready to take over and attack their handlers on the first opportunity. The parties' co-dependence, within an urban surrounding where none could survive without the other, makes their relationship all the more complex.
Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York