Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Hyena and Other Men

The Hyena and Other men

Pieter Hugo is a South African photographer. Last year, he published some photos of Nigera's 'Hyena Men'.

In Abuja we found them living on the periphery of the city in a shantytown - a group of men, a little girl, three hyenas, four monkeys and a few rock pythons. It turned out that they were a group of itinerant minstrels, performers who used the animals to entertain crowds and sell traditional medicines. The animal handlers were all related to each other and were practising a tradition passed down from generation to generation. I spent eight days travelling with them.
The internet is woefully lacking in information about all this, but the photographer has a write-up here. This is particularly poignant:
Many animal-rights groups also contacted me, wanting to intervene (however, the keepers have permits from the Nigerian government). When I asked Nigerians, "How do you feel about the way they treat animals", the question confused people. Their responses always involved issues of economic survival. Seldom did anyone express strong concern for the well-being of the creatures. Europeans invariably only ask about the welfare of the animals but this question misses the point. Instead, perhaps, we could ask why these performers need to catch wild animals to make a living. Or why they are economically marginalised. Or why Nigeria, the world's sixth largest exporter of oil, is in such a state of disarray.
Hyena fact time! "The female Spotted Hyena's urogenital system is unique among mammals; the female's clitoris is elongated to form a fully erectile phallus, and the vaginal opening is at the tip of this phallus. [...] The female urinates, mates and gives birth through this pseudo-penis."

Wikipedia of course also has an entry for pseudo-penis:"A pseudo-penis is a term used of any structure found on an animal that while superficially appearing to be a penis, is derived from a different developmental path." I know some people I could put into that category.

No comments: