Incandescence des hyènes
Nicolas Matos Ichaso
In Ethiopia, Harari blacksmiths have the reputation of turning themselves into hyenas and roaming the streets of the old city. An immersion in the work of Ethiopian blacksmiths, who live on the fringes of society. As a backdrop, the unnerving nocturnal beauty of Harar and its inhabitants’ passion for khat. At night, working bodies change shape and the possibility of metamorphosing from blacksmith into hyena creates a shift in reality.
After a daylight prelude, Incandescence des hyènes unfolds wholly in the depths of night in Harar, Ethiopia. Embers glow red in the twilight; blacksmiths plunge their metal in to shape it more easily. The film builds a muffled symphony of colours and sounds typically found at that hour in the city and surrounding nature. The green of khat leaves flies off from the market and splashes onto the walls of the hut where they are consumed. The street lighting splits the figure of the walking blacksmith into nearby silhouettes. The sound of hammer blows ring out everywhere but, as we approach the forge, our attention is drawn to the roar of the fire. Nicolas Matos Ichaso listens to the blacksmiths’ silence and observes their gestures through a symbolist rather than anthropological prism that highlights their forms and rhythms. Work is disconnected from its function, represented as a present moment that animates the body, makes it tense up, gives it a rhythm. The psychotropic khat weighs the body down but also lifts it up, to the point of trance. The organism itself is fragmented, separated from everything that links each part to the elements around it and to the light that models it. This furnishes the link with the legend whereby local blacksmiths change into hyenas once night has fallen. The atmosphere in which men and animals are steeped is so dense that it conjures up unexpected shifts from one realm to another. Howls announce the appearance of the beasts, and a poem unleashes their mythical power.
Born in 1982, Nicolas Matos Ichaso lives and works in Saint Etienne, France. After several trips to Southern Asia and Africa, he turned to visual anthropology studies and focused his work on blacksmiths in Ethiopia. In 2016, he joined the Ardèche Images Documentary School in Lussas, France. Glow of the Hyenas is his first documentary film.