Pieter Hugo is a photographer that have already showcased his work at Art Basel.
The works by the artist could be seen at Stevenson Gallery from Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, which was pushing itself last year in terms of the ambition and scale of the works it is bringing.
The series presented is ‘The Hyena & Other Men’ in Nigeria. Pieter was captivated by the first pictures of the ‘hyena men’ that he came across randomly. He went to live with them on the periphery of Abuja in a shantytown – a group of men, a little girl, three hyenas, four monkeys and a few rock pythons.
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Nigerian newspapers told him that these men were bank robbers, bodyguards, drug dealers, debt collectors. Myths surrounded them. It turned out that they were a group of itinerant minstrels, performers who used the animals to entertain crowds and sell traditional medicines. Pieter realised that what he found fascinating was the hybridisation of the urban and the wild, and the paradoxical relationship that the handlers have with their animals – sometimes doting and affectionate, sometimes brutal and cruel.
When looking back at the notebooks he had kept while with them, the words ‘dominance’, ‘codependence’ and ‘submission’ kept appearing. These pictures depict much more than an exotic group of travelling performers in West Africa. The motifs that linger are the fraught relationships we have with ourselves, with animals and with nature.
“Hyena Men” series is simpler to ship but harder to find on the market.Hugo says he’s been ripped off in music videos by artists as diverse as Australian singer Nick Cave to Beyoncé, and these photographs haven’t been seen at fairs for years because they’ve been sold out.
They make us face a reality very far from our mind, and make us realize there is an all new perspective to see things.
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