South African photographer Pieter Hugo captures a unique partnership forged on survival
“Get it how you live.” It’s a phrase Benny Basic and the Big Tymers made prevalent in my life since the early 2000’s. Broadly speaking, more or less, it means do what you gotta do to make ends meet. Do what you gotta do to survive. The phrase comes to mind when examining the work of South African photographer Pieter Hugo, whose documentary work has shed light on one of Nigeria’s most extraordinary yet controversial business practices.
Pieter happened upon the traveling circus of Hyena handlers, known simply as “The Hyena Men”, after a cell phone photo of the troupe was reproduced in a South African newspaper. Provoked by the photograph, Hugo ventured to the city of Abuja, Nigeria to meet the group, traveling with them for a number of days to document their practice. The images he collected while travelling with the group tell a captivating story–a tale of tradition, economic strife and ultimately, survival. Read on for a look inside the world of the Hyena Men.