Hyena Safari

We’ve discussed how shots of animals (elephants, giraffes, rhinos) in the foreground of a savannah or a sunset are often used in Western representations of Africa. Hyenas also depends a lot on animals as symbols. The film begins and ends with shots of elephants walking around and there are, of course, many shots of hyenas. The shots of elephants and some of the hyenas are actually very similar to the common Western representations stylistically, though most of the hyenas are shown in the dark, with piercing shining eyes. But both in the stereotypical representations and in Hyenas, the animals come to stand in for the people of Africa. Both symbols erase people as humans, and replace them with allegories. The difference is that other representations do it seemingly unaware, it’s “unthinking eurocentrism,” while Hyenas/Mambety is very aware of it–in the first scene, the elephant feet become humans trampling across the desert and the word hyenas is constantly used in reference to human behavior.

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4 Responses

  1. I also noted the stereotypical use of African images. It is less prevalent throughout the film, but certainly uses it as a technique to introduce the area and subject matter.

  2. I agree with you: even though the movie is by an African filmmaker, he relied on the common Africa=animals stereotype, even though the significant animal here (that of course being the hyena) was unusual.

  3. At the same time, I thought the use of animal images/clips was very different from the stereotypical use (say, in Tomb Raider) in the sense that they didn’t appear to be related to the concept/perception of what Africa is supposed to be–at least that’s what seemed like to me. Rather, the images seemed somewhat out-of-place if it weren’t for the metaphor/motif present throughout the movie, which actually reinforced the metaphor of townspeople turning into hyenas, but not necessarily because they are Africans (not because of Africans=animals), but because they are human beings in front of material liberation.

  4. At the same time, I thought the use of animal images/clips was very different from the stereotypical use (say, in Tomb Raider) in the sense that they didn’t appear to be related to the concept/perception of what Africa is supposed to be–at least that’s what seemed like to me. Rather, the images seemed somewhat out-of-place if it weren’t for the metaphor/motif present throughout the movie, which actually reinforced the metaphor of townspeople turning into hyenas, but not necessarily because they are Africans (in other words, not because of Africans=animals), but because they are human beings facing material liberation.

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