Known to the locals on the streets of Lagos as the Gadawan Kura (rough translation: ‘hyena handlers/guides’) but portrayed by Nigerian press as little more than a group of shady body guards, bank robbers, drug dealers and debt collectors – there has always been a tangible sense of myth and mystery surrounding the existence of “the hyena men of Nigeria”.
Their story sparked the curiosity of photographer Pieter Hugo, who boarded a plane to Lagos determined to understand the roots, practices and culture of this fascinating group of individuals.
This is personal story and account of his journey with The Hyena Men Of Nigeria.
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.
Below are just some of the captivating images from his travels with the group – visiting them twice in a 3 year period. The photographs & many more are from his book wonderful book The Hyena & Other Men which we highly recommend you seek out.