16th Nov, 2023 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

Lot 51
Lot 51 - Pieter Hugo (South Africa 1976-)


Pieter Hugo (South Africa 1976-)
Mallam Galadima Ahmadu with Jamis and Mallam Mantari Lamal with Mainasara, Abuja Nigeria

archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper

Artwork date: 2005
Signature details: signed, dated, numbered 3/5 and inscribed 'From the Hyena Men of Nigeria Series' in pencil in the margin
Edition: from an edition of 5 +1 AP
Exhibited: Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, 'Pieter Hugo 'Gadawan Kura - The Hyena Men', 22 February to 25 March 2006, an example from the edition exhibited.

Sold for R228,750
Estimated at R200,000 - R300,000


archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper

Artwork date: 2005
Signature details: signed, dated, numbered 3/5 and inscribed 'From the Hyena Men of Nigeria Series' in pencil in the margin
Edition: from an edition of 5 +1 AP
Exhibited: Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, 'Pieter Hugo 'Gadawan Kura - The Hyena Men', 22 February to 25 March 2006, an example from the edition exhibited.


sheet size: 112 x 110 cm; image size: 100 x 100 cm; framed size: 114.5 x 114.5 x 6 cm


Private collection, Cape Town.


Many myths surround Nigeria’s ‘hyena men’. Intriguing figures, they are believed to be bank robbers, bodyguards, drug dealers or debt collectors. In reality, they are entertainers. The travelling group uses animals to entertain crowds and sell traditional medicine. They are all related, and practicing a tradition which has been passed down from generation to generation.

Pieter Hugo’s compelling documentation of the group came about after a friend emailed him an image of men walking down the street with hyenas in Lagos. The photo, taken with a cellphone through a car window, captivated the artist who soon tracked down a Nigerian reporter, Adetokunbo Abiola who knew the ‘Gadawan Kura’, as they are known in Hausa.

Abiola arranged for Hugo to meet the group and he travelled to Nigeria where he found them – a group of men, a little girl, three hyenas, four monkeys and a few rock pythons – living in a shantytown on the periphery of Abuja. The spectacle they caused was tremendous and Hugo, initially, tried to capture this but he found that his interest did not lie in these performances.

What fascinates the artist is the “hybridization of the urban and the wild and the paradoxical relationship the handlers have with their animals – sometimes doting and affectionate, sometimes brutal and cruel”.[1] He continued to look for situations where this was evident, going for walks with individual handlers and taking portraits at opportune moments.

The series has caused a multitude of reactions – fascination, disbelief, objection and intrigue. Concerned animal-rights groups have wanted to intervene, although the handlers do have permits from the Nigerian Government. However, Hugo notes that, in Nigeria, people are largely confused when asked how they feel about the treatment of the animals. Their responses are rather centered around economic survival. For Hugo, a focus only on the welfare of animals does not consider the multiple socio-political and economic conditions. The artist suggests that one instead asks, “why these performers need to catch wild animals to make a living. Or why they are economically marginalized if Nigeria is the world’s sixth largest exporter of oil”?[2]

[1] Abiola, A. & Hugo, P. (2008). The Hyena and Other Men. Munich: Prestel Verlag, unpaginated.

[2] Ibid.


An example from this edition forms part of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection, Stuttgart, Germany.


The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, the 21c Museum, Louisville, USA.; USA Auckland Art Museum.; USA Centre Pompidou, Paris.; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, USA.; Cincinnati Art Museum, USA.; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA.; Daimler Art Collection, UK.; Deutsche Börse Group, Frankfurt, Germany.; Ethnologische Museum, Berlin, Germany.; FNAC, France.; Foam Photography Museum, Amsterdam.; Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany.; Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio, Modena, Italy.; FRAC Réunion, Reunion Island, France.; Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag, the Netherlands.; Huis Marseille, Amsterdam.; Johannesburg Art Gallery.; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.

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