Hugo describes how he was drawn into the strange world of Nigeria's hyena men in a brief and compelling essay, here.
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.
- Pieter Hugo
I met a hyena man in Harar, Ethiopia while I was traveling there. He sat in the dark every night with a bucket of donkey meat, waiting for the hyenas to emerge from the bush to feed. They approached him gingerly and snarled as he tossed scraps at their feet. The hyena man knew them all by name, and they knew him. After a few minutes, they forgot to be coy - they grew bold and snatched meat from the mouth of the hyena man. When they had their fill, they disappeared back into the darkness, their eyes wide and glowing.
The day after the fire in our building, I set about clearing the debris. This led to an eight hour cleaning spree of epic proportions - I reorganized our overflowing bookcases in my own highly idiosyncratic way (God help Fauxhawk if he needs to find a book), vacuumed, dusted, scrubbed, mopped, and jettisoned what I could. Fauxhawk and I have a bad habit of accumulating things – we become attached to the flotsam and jetsam of daily life, to tiny mementos of our travels, and to the gew-gaws of our childhood. We like to be surrounded by our stuff, and the overall effect – though slightly chaotic – is decorative and comforting.
We had become accustomed to having these things around - before the fire, I barely noticed them; they formed the scenic design of our life together. Rag in hand, I reconnected with each object as I would a long-lost friend. I came across a small black statuette of Bathsheba, mother of King Solomon – a souvenir from Ethiopia given to me by my ex-boyfriend, Dermonster. The statue had a mate, a delicately carved Solomon that I was meant to keep while Dermonster and I conducted our long-distance New York/Geneva, London/Geneva relationship. While he kept his Bathsheba, I kept my Solomon, moving from place to place with him wrapped in my clothes.
After moving across the Atlantic to be near Dermonster, I realized to my horror that I had lost my Solomon. At around this time, my long-distance relationship began to unravel. I spent more and more time weeping alone in my London flat, steeped in despair and wanting to disappear. My heart and head and gut were all at odds with each other and I couldn’t find a way out of the tangled mess we were in. Finally, when the straw broke the camel’s back, I screwed up my courage, boarded a plane to New York, and said goodbye to London, Geneva and Dermonster. I cried the whole way home, and every day for ten months after that.
Two years (and almost no communication) later, I saw Dermonster in New York. He presented me with a small package. It was Bathsheba. He had kept her all that time – the symbol of our broken, smashed up, one-sided relationship.
“She’s yours,” he said. “It’s too sad to have her around now that Solomon’s gone.”
I keep Bathsheba on my bookshelf. I could never part with her. She reminds me to listen to my gut, trust my heart, and run like hell when something doesn't feel right.
Title of this post taken from the excellent book, Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with Unexpected Significance. Photographs from The Selby.
My page has been so wonky these days - it's slow to load, the browser locks - I don't know what's going on and it's completely maddening.
Throwing my hands up in defeat, I took down everything but the bare essentials and created a separate site in Google Page Creator to hold some of the more problematic elements such as photo slide shows.
Click here to check out the site and view my mini photo essays from India and Ethiopia.
Though I was somewhat annoyed about having to take stuff off my blog and create a whole other page to host those elements, Googlepage is kind of fun, especially if you know very little about HTML. You can create a new page and manage it very easily - a good resource if you want to create a simple, straightforward website.