The Naraative and pictures are from his book The Hyena and Other Men.
It all started with the picture above. A friend had emailed photographer Pieter Hugo this bizarre image taken on a cellphone in Lagos, Nigeria. The caption read, ‘The Streets of Lagos’, and a newspaper publishing the photo reported that the men were bank robbers, body guards, drug dealers and debt collectors.
The image went viral online and the myth of these street toughs in Nigeria with Hyenas grew. Pieter was captivated and knew he had to learn more.
Through a journalist friend, Hugo 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, Pieter 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.|
I agreed to travel with the animal wranglers to Kano in the northern part of the country. One of them set out to negotiate a fare with a taxi driver; everyone else, including myself and the hyenas, monkeys and rock pythons, hid in the bushes. When their companion signalled that he had agreed on a fare, the motley troupe of humans and animals leapt out from behind the bushes and jumped into the vehicle.
|The taxi driver was completely horrified. I sat upfront with a monkey and the driver. He drove like an absolute maniac. At one stage the monkey was terrified by his driving. It grabbed hold of my leg and stared into my eyes. I could see its fear.|