I like Beyoncé a lot. Am I jeopardizing my (completely unestablished) reputation by writing this? Maybe. But it’s Beyoncé. Everyone likes her. Except, perhaps, for South African photographer Pieter Hugo.
She’s making reference to Hugo and his series The Hyena & Other Men. Hugo’s fascination with the “Hyena Men” came about after a friend e-mailed a picture he had taken of a man walking a hyena on a chain in Lagos, Nigeria. The men, called “Gadawan Kura” (rough translation: “hyena guides”), were surrounded by myth and mystery and largely assumed to be drug dealers, bodyguards, thieves, and debt collectors. In fact they are itinerant performers who tame and work with hyenas, monkeys, and rock pythons to entertain and to sell traditional medicine. They are all related, and the tradition is passed down generation to generation. Through a journalist friend and a Nigerian reporter, Hugo was put in contact with the Gadawan Kura, who agreed to let Hugo travel with them for eight days. Two years later, with the project feeling unresolved, Hugo returned to Nigeria and took more photos. These images are more intimate, more informal, and reflect the trust and understanding the artist had developed with the hyena guides two years earlier and maintained over the interim.