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September 11, 2005 10:48 PM   Subscribe

The Hyena People of Nigeria. Photography from Pieter Hugo.
posted by tellurian (28 comments total)

 
You know, nothing says "ferocious, flesh-tearing, baboon" more than an adorable little sailor suit. He looks like people!
posted by StopMakingSense at 11:08 PM on September 11, 2005


Why would anybody would a pet hyena? Ain't ferrets dangerous enough?
posted by davy at 11:19 PM on September 11, 2005


eh
posted by delmoi at 11:19 PM on September 11, 2005


The article says that the hyena handlers wear amulets and charms that keep them from being attacked, but you'll notice most of 'em carry a big stick, too. Sad, really, any way you look at it.
posted by wsg at 12:43 AM on September 12, 2005


But one member of the group of animal handlers is six-year-old 'Mummy' Abdullahi, Abdullahi's daughter, and she plays with the various animals without showing any signs of fear. She even rides a hyena as if it were a miniature, slope-shouldered pony.

"She cannot be harmed," Abdullahi says. "It's the same thing with the snakes and monkeys. She has partaken of a potion of traditional herbs and has been bathed with it. So her safety from the animals is guaranteed for the rest of her life."


Um... I just hope this kid makes it to adolescence with most of her limbs intact. Hyenas are to pit bulls what garden trowels are to these.
posted by maryh at 12:58 AM on September 12, 2005


Sometimes, the powerful light from the hyena's eyes would damage the bulb of the torch, but Abdullahi would still have his way. Wow.

The hyena man of Harrar
posted by PY at 1:04 AM on September 12, 2005


If they told you wolverines would make good house pets, would you believe them?
posted by bwg at 1:27 AM on September 12, 2005


Wow. Sad, absolutely... but fascinating photos. And great link, too, PY.
posted by taz at 1:33 AM on September 12, 2005


"Four armed gang who used a hyena and a monkey to rob their victims in Katsina State have been arrested by the police after a gun duel in Bichi, headquarters of Bichi Local Government of Kano State."

I'll avoid the obvious "bichi" remark, but when did monkeys start using guns?
posted by HuronBob at 2:31 AM on September 12, 2005


If you ever thought you were hardcore, look at these pics and learn a lesson.
posted by Jimbob at 3:38 AM on September 12, 2005


That's what I love about Nigeria. The surreal is so normal that all they warrant is a second glance. For example, I was there last year in a taxi, and the taxi driver refused to give the policeman a bribe. The policeman ran out in front of the car, pumped his shotgun, pointed it right at us, and yelled out : "Do you want me to blast your windscreen?"

And everyone in the car just looked away, disinterested.

You think David Blaine is good? You should see the street magicians in Nigeria. These magicians sell medicines, and people will only buy the medicines if they are absolutely amazed at his ability. So the man come out and does some tricks, wows the people and proceeds to sell his small bottles of things. I once saw one knock a 6 inch nail into his eyeball. The old snake through the nose and out of the ear is commonplace. All this is done with a crowd of about 40 people surrounding him in a circle.
posted by markesh at 5:24 AM on September 12, 2005


That's cool.
posted by stbalbach at 5:57 AM on September 12, 2005


Cool. I'd love, like, a hyena, pit, cane corso mix. That would be tight.
posted by OmieWise at 6:05 AM on September 12, 2005


markesh: after reading that comment I so was hoping you had a blog.
And I agree taz, good link PY, a much better symbiosis with this much maligned animal. Incidentally, how would the light from the hyena's eyes damage the bulb?
posted by tellurian at 6:05 AM on September 12, 2005


You think David Blaine is good? You should see the street magicians in Nigeria. These magicians sell medicines, and people will only buy the medicines if they are absolutely amazed at his ability.
Er, where exactly were you in Nigeria? It's a big country, about 2.5 times as large as Germany, and in all my years of living there I've never seen either the sorts of street magicians you talk about (though I have seen more than my share of aggressive touts) or the hyena people in the slideshow above.

The "Hyena people" pictures all seem to have been taken in the far north of Nigeria, which makes Pieter Hugo's claim to have taken the pictures in Lagos either a journalist's misstatement or a mark of Hugo's own ignorance: indeed, the same interview reveals that the pictures were supposedly taken in the outskirts of Abuja. Anyone expecting to visit Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Owerri, Port Harcourt or any other southern city and see strange magical feats or exotic animals while on a casual stroll can expect to be intensely disappointed.
posted by Goedel at 6:21 AM on September 12, 2005


Reading this weeks column from the wonderful Dr Karl regarding how cats eyes work, I wondered if they had more rods (and thus reflected more light) than a cats eye, but still don't understand how this would destroy a bulb.
posted by tellurian at 6:46 AM on September 12, 2005


Sorry, but I think this is a hoax. Don't know why, exactly… but something about both the images and the accompanying text seem not quite on. Any thoughts? (not trolling, honestly!!)
posted by guidonDeBascogne at 6:54 AM on September 12, 2005


Hi Goedel, these street magicians are there everywhere. If you are in Port Harcourt or Lagos or any other larger town, it will be a bit difficult to find them, since it is not as if they have some big budget advertisment budget.

I lived in Nigeria for 18 years, so trust me, they are there.

They usually come to either the markets or to the motorparks. When they arrive, a crowd gathers around them in a circle, and if you are passing by in a car, you will not see what is in the middle of the circle.

But maybe you have sometimes seen some mallam selling things in bottles with people gathered around him. It is those same people who do the magic tricks.

You know how it is in Nigeria - if a crowd of people are gathered in one area, it is usually not a good idea to go too near, you might see something you will not enjoy thinking about.

I saw my particular street magicians in the calabar area. That is where I lived.

Sorry tellurian, I don't have a blog.

But Nigeria is great, and there are lots of things below the surface that you can stay for 5 years and never even hear about. For example, there was this story I was told the other day:

A woman had a husband, and she could not have a child. So the husband divorced her and left. Well, she found herself a new boyfriend, but he wanted to first see that she could get pregnant before marrying her. They tried and tried, and she did not get pregnant.

So she went the pragmatic way: She went and found a particular 'cheap' girl from the village and married her (in an official ceremony!) Her boyfriend then impregnated the other girl, and they took the baby and then she divorced the girl and married the boyfriend.

The moral? Nigeria is way ahead of the west in same-sex marriage rights!
posted by markesh at 7:02 AM on September 12, 2005


guidonDeBascogne, those pictures are real. I've never seen these hyena people, but I've seen the baboon people.

I've got another Nigeria story:

A couple of weeks ago, in a small town down south, a gang of about 20 armed men rode in. Their first stop was the policestation, where they opened fire with semi-automatic rifles. The policemen all immediately ran away into the bushes, leaving the police station empty.

The armed robbers sat themselves down by a woman selling gin on the roadside. She had been too slow and old to run away. They proceeded to drink a lot of gin and to shoot their guns into the air. The entire town of 20,000 was frozen in fear, hearing these gunshots in their town.

They paid the old woman, told the old woman to wait there for them, then they went to the intercontinental bank in the town center, all the while shooting in the air. By this time, the entire armed security guards of the bank had run as far away as they could, and everyone in the town was cowering in their houses.

The bank was closed down, so they started shooting at the windows. But they were bulletproof, so they could not break them. Then they tried breaking down there door, but it was made of metal, and did not break down. So they sent one of their cars to a nearbye town where they rented a metal cutting machine and a small generator. They started the generator and the machine and tried cutting their way into the bank. They still could not do it.

The entire process lasted for 5 hours. That old woman had followed the thieves, and was selling them gin during this process.

After 5 hours, they gave up, and left the town still shooting into the air, and were not even able to enter the bank.

The next morning, half of the town withdrew their money from the other banks and moved it to intercontinental bank.
posted by markesh at 7:14 AM on September 12, 2005


You think David Blaine is good?

No I do not.
posted by glenwood at 7:16 AM on September 12, 2005


"Don't know why, exactly… but something about both the images and the accompanying text seem not quite on."
The pictures look real enough to my eye, though I'm not a Photoshop expert: what sets my suspicions off is the lack of any details as to where exactly they were taken, and the incongruous reference to Lagos in the same article in which they're said to have been taken outside Abuja.
"I lived in Nigeria for 18 years, so trust me, they are there."
I am Nigerian by birth, and I've never seen them, so it's hard for me to take such a thing on "trust." I'm not trying to impugn your veracity, but I find the story hard to square with my own experience.
"I saw my particular street magicians in the calabar area. That is where I lived."
Which is what I wanted to know. The only "magicians" I've ever seen on the streets of Ikorodu, Mushin or Isale-Eko are pickpockets, and the only "magical" thing about them was how adept they were at their craft ...
posted by Goedel at 7:17 AM on September 12, 2005


Goedel: do you have that whole story available as a link [good info]? When I do search on the original site (sundaytimes.co.za) with [nigerian, street, performer] it only returns "SENTENCED: To death, former Indian politician Sushil Sharma, after being found guilty of murdering his wife and attempting to burn her body parts in the tandoor oven of a New Delhi restaurant."
posted by tellurian at 7:18 AM on September 12, 2005


Wow, these photos are amazing (and i'll second JimBob's " If you ever thought you were hardcore, look at these pics and learn a lesson."), but seemingly miserably cruel.
posted by tpl1212 at 7:27 AM on September 12, 2005


Hey Goedel, I'm also a Nigerian by birth. Nigeria is a big place, and I can only speak about how things are down where I come from. I don't know if the same people are there in Lagos, I've only been there twice, and both times just to get on a plane and fly somewhere else.

How can I prove it :) All I can say is - I saw them!
posted by markesh at 7:28 AM on September 12, 2005


Dueling Nigerians!
posted by bshort at 7:58 AM on September 12, 2005


Wow, I wasn't aware that Metafilter's Naija membership had swelled recently! Cool.

I also didn't see any magicians during my stay in Lagos and Ibadan, and fortunately didn't meet any of the pickpockets Goedel describes during my trecks through the markets near Tinubu Square (name escapes me at the moment) and Jankara Market. Not even at Ojuelegba or while riding in public transportation around Ketu and Mile 12... According to my Nigerian friends I was protected by the blood of Jesus. Perhaps.

What was this post about again? Oh yes, the photographs. While I have no reason to doubt their authenticity at face value, the text that explains them is at the same time sensationalistic and over-vague. For example, the following claim seems to overstate the reality of religious belief in Nigeria, and is especially problematic when the author is talking about a particular group of people in a nation of at least 150 million people and over 300 ethnic groups:

The concoctions sold to the public are meant to protect against snake, hyena or monkey bites, while the charms and amulets shield people from the antics of witches and wizards, which the majority of Nigerians believe are responsible for their misfortunes.

(Note: I am not a Nigerian by birth or otherwise. I'm an anthropologist who has done research in Lagos and Ibadan on Christian churches and Yoruba religion.)
posted by vitpil at 8:35 AM on September 12, 2005


This has been around the block a bit. It was on boingboing in July but I don't remember where I first saw it. Here's a May '05 piece and another weblog entry as well.
posted by peacay at 10:49 AM on September 12, 2005


Thanks for the links peacay. I already suspected Pieter Hugo had seen the 3 earlier photos on the net of the Nigerians and their animals and followed up on them - they were very intriguing photos. I also found his comment in the Sunday Times article about how these guys "reminded me of trance ravers" interesting, as a similar thought had crossed my mind when I saw the original photos.
posted by Onanist at 11:57 PM on September 12, 2005


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