After seeing some of Pieter Hugo’s work at The Photographers Gallery I went and done some of my own research of his other work and of the body of work he was exhibiting in the competition.
One body of work that I was really drawn too was the The Hyena & Other Men.
THE DOG’S MASTER
“These photographs came about after a friend emailed me an image taken on a cellphone through a car window in Lagos, Nigeria, which depicted a group of men walking down the street with a hyena in chains. A few days later I saw the image reproduced in a South African newspaper with the caption ‘The Streets of Lagos’. Nigerian newspapers reported that these men were bank robbers, bodyguards, drug dealers, debt collectors. Myths surrounded them. The image captivated me.
Through a journalist friend I eventually tracked down a Nigerian reporter, Adetokunbo Abiola, who said that he knew the ‘Gadawan Kura’ as they are known in Hausa (a rough translation: ‘hyena handlers/guides’).
A few weeks later I was on a plane to Lagos. Abiola met me at the airport and together we took a bus to Benin City where the ‘hyena men’ had agreed to meet us. However, when we got there they had already departed for Abuja.
In Abuja we found them living on the periphery of the city in a shantytown – a group of men, a little girl, three hyenas, four monkeys and a few rock pythons. It turned out that they were a group of itinerant minstrels, performers who used the animals to entertain crowds and sell traditional medicines. The animal handlers were all related to each other and were practising a tradition passed down from generation to generation. I spent eight days travelling with them”
I think the main reason I was drawn to these photographs was the fact that these men were posing with these animals such as Hyenas that we here in england see as quite a dangerous yet these men are walking around with them on a leash as we do here with dogs. I thought this was quite bazaar but looking through and reading about the Hyena men it came apparent that this was normal for them in there group although they did get looks from walkers by.
All the photographs are really powerful at first glance and then when you really look into the image you start to read more into it and wonder what they were doing at that time or where they were doing or what they were doing with the animals. It also really did shock me to see some photographs with a small girl in them, laying on top of a Hyena and another with a snake practically around her.