2006 Photo Contest, Portraits, 1st prize

Pieter Hugo


01 January, 2005

Mallam Galadima Ahamadu with the hyena Jamis. Mallam is part of a troupe that travels around northern Nigeria with three hyenas, two rock pythons, and four monkeys. They work as entertainers and sell the fetishes and herbal medicines that are much in demand. The hyenas are trained to mock-attack, which draws the crowds.

The handlers capture the hyenas from caves in the wild, subduing them with traditional potions, then subjecting them to up to two months of training. The creatures are then taught to interact with humans and other animals without attacking them. Mallam and his colleagues feed the hyenas a goat every three days or so, which also helps to keep them calm, and sprinkle water on them as they dislike excessive heat.

About the photographer

Pieter Hugo

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