A mobile phone image captured through a car window in Lagos, Nigeria, depicting a group of men walking down the street with a hyena in chains, was the starting point for Pieter Hugo's 2005 body of work The Hyena & Other Men.
Hugo tracked down a Nigerian reporter, Adetokunbo Abiola, who knew the ‘Gadawan Kura’ as they are known in Hausa (a rough translation: ‘hyena handlers/guides’). Hugo then travelled to Lagos and spent eight days travelling with the group, recording their lives through photography in a series of startling and revealing portraits.
Hugo himself commented: 'Many animal-rights groups also contacted me, wanting to intervene (however, the keepers have permits from the Nigerian government). When I asked Nigerians, “How do you feel about the way they treat animals”, the question confused people. Their responses always involved issues of economic survival. Seldom did anyone express strong concern for the well-being of the creatures. Europeans invariably only ask about the welfare of the animals but this question misses the point. Instead, perhaps, we could ask why these performers need to catch wild animals to make a living. Or why they are economically marginalised. Or why Nigeria, the world’s sixth largest exporter of oil, is in such a state of disarray.' Those are questions posed but enigmatically left unanswered by this series of arresting images.