The Republic of Hysteria is a project that attempts to reimagine the mythological history of the Laughing Hyena, a female-dominated species that has long been negatively represented in folklore.
The Laughing (or Spotted) Hyena, Crocuta Crocuta, is a unique mammal that is native to sub-Saharan Africa. C. Crocuta is a fascinating species featuring complex social behaviors, particularly when it comes to gender roles: females are larger and more aggressive than males, they are sexually promiscuous, and they possess genitalia that closely resembles that of their male counterparts. These highly intelligent animals are primarily hunters but are also scavengers, making them extremely adaptive and successful in terms of biological fitness.
Despite her many impressive qualities and opportunistic abilities, C. Crocuta has long been subjected to a negative reputation in mythological culture. Both African and Western folktales associate the creature with greediness, gluttony, witchcraft, grave-robbing, cannibalism, and, most prominently, sexual perversion and immorality. Though there is no scientific evidence to prove this theory, some believe that the animal's negative reputation actively contributes to its declining population. Laughing Hyenas are currently classified on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as "vulnerable."
The Republic of Hysteria* is the mythical home to a community of female-bodied human figures in Hyena costumes who rule over the landscape with matriarchal jurisdiction. The figures occupy a barren environment which represents gentle femininity and brutal abandonment: pink ribbons, silk banners, and rainbows are situated next to dead trees, traffic cones, and crumbling walls tagged with graffiti. In this fictional space, the qualities that initially gave the Laughing Hyena its scathing reputation— such as sexual promiscuity, adaptability, and female dominance— are presented as powerful assets worthy of celebration rather than deplorable transgressions warranting shame.