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Dispatches

Great Rift Valley, Kenya

 

 

 

Prides and Joy

How a tribesman who once killed a lion became one of the species’ leading advocates

DAY BREAKS OVER the Great Rift Valley in southwest Kenya, and Koike Parsaloi, a 37-year-old Masai guide from the Shompole Eco Lodge, draped in a purple-checkered robe and beaded necklaces, drives his Land Rover across the veld. Moments later he cuts the engine, and a lioness appears from a thicket of prairie grass. One lion follows another, until an entire pride is creeping across the plain toward a herd of zebra.

Such scenes were uncommon here only a decade ago, when conservationist and designer Anthony Russell partnered with local Masai to create the lodge and conservancy. At that time, these cats faced an uncertain future, their numbers thinned by hunting and habitat loss. Since then, Koike and his tribesmen have reversed the trend. The result: Lion populations in Shompole Conservancy and its environs have increased from just six to 70, even as their numbers continue to fall throughout Kenya.

That Koike has emerged as a protector of lions is poignant. Not only does he come from a tribe in which youngsters kill lions to prove their manhood (a practice abandoned in Shompole), when he was 24 he killed one that had crept into his village. “It was very dark,” he recalls, “and everyone was sleeping.” Sensing something from his hut, he stepped outside and found a lion staring back at him. He slew it with a single thrust of his spear.

Back on the veld, as the zebras notice the pride and flee, Koike praises the changes that have occurred here, where tourism revenues have funded schools and health care for the Masai, “including my three children,” he says. The pride turns its attention to a group of giraffes, and Koike shifts his Land Rover into gear and lights off in pursuit.—JOEL CENTANO

Valencia, Spain
In the Market

As the morning sun shines through the stained glass windows of Valencia’s vast indoor Central Market, vendors push carts brimming with apples and oranges in anticipation of a busy shopping day. To the right of the entrance stands thirtysomething Antonio Catalán Gómez, the man behind the market’s most popular spice stall, Purificación Gómez Molina. Always cheerful, even as tears stream down his cheeks thanks to the frigid air from nearby refrigerated fish stalls, Gómez greets customers as they peruse the groomed mounds of paprika and jars of cinnamon and saffron.

His grandfather started the business when the market opened in 1928, and it hasn’t closed a day since. “My father took over the stall in 1970, and I started working here after his death, several years ago, to help my mother,” he says. “Everyone knows us because we buy the best-quality spices and we’ve been around for so long.”

Growing up, he would help his father stock shelves on Saturday mornings. Then, the market was dark and dingy—soot covered the stained glass and “sun never came through the windows,” he says. “It was pretty bad until recently,” when the city renovated the market five years ago. Nowadays, the space’s visual aesthetic is more cathedral than market, with frescos of Valencia oranges painted on trusses and a sparkling dome at its center. “It is so beautiful now,” he says. “I love being able to see the sun during the day.”

A balding man walks up to the stall carrying three baguettes. He smiles, exchanges pleasantries and leaves with four containers of paprika. “He’s one of my regulars,” Catalán Gómez says. “I have a close relationship with my customers—they are family. I plan to keep this business going for a long, long time.” —KATIE MORELL

Berlin
Great Reception

There’s nothing palatial about Pallasseum, a bleak, 1970s cement monolith built around a World War II bunker here in Berlin. Some might say this 514-unit apartment complex is an outright eyesore. For artist Daniel Knipping, however, it’s the perfect canvas for an urban art project.

For two nears, Knipping has been printing images on the 300 or so satellite receivers a ached to Pallasseum’s façade. Most of the devices are owned by immigrants longing to get news from home, but by decorating them with pictures, Knipping transforms these passive receptors into transmitters of art.

Initially many residents were dubious, but when Klaus-Peter Fritsch, the management company’s CEO, heard the idea, he was so enthusiastic he paid for the first five pieces. Other tenants were soon on board, and the city financed the rest of the project with a $23,000 grant.

Knipping worked with each participating household to come up with the designs. Some selected photographs of their loved ones, while others chose pictures from nature to brighten the dull concrete surroundings. One dish shows a religious icon, another Pop Art Chevrolet.

Not every resident has been raving about it, however. “What art?” says Madlen Thiele, a hairdresser and lifelong resident of Pallasseum. “Oh, those? They’re silly, don’t you think?” Thiele said she would have rather spent the money on repainting the building. Nevertheless, Fritsch remains “proud” of the result. —CHANEY KWAK

June 6-July 30
NEW YORK CITY
• Spend a summer evening enjoying Measure for Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well at this year’s Shakespeare in Central Park. www.shakespeareinthepark.org

June 16-19
PARIS • It’s a small world after all at the 31st annual Paris Model Show, where collectors show off their tiny boats, planes, trains and automobiles. www.mondial-modelisme.com

June 25-26
WASHINGTON, D.C.
• Back- yard chefs around the country fire up their grills at the National Capital Barbecue Battle. Bring your appetite. www.bbqdc.com

June 30-July 6
EDIRNE, TURKEY • The Kirkpi nar Oil Wrestling tournament is exactly what it sounds like. In its 648th year, it’s also the world’s longest continuously running wrestling festival. www.kirkpinar.com

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