Amur And Timur


In the safari park of Primorye, Russia, living conditions of animals are close to natural wild ones. It’s the place where representatives of many wild species live.

The park has a program for breeding  rare Siberian tigers  in captivity.

The Siberian tiger (panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Amur tiger, is a tiger subspecies inhabiting mainly the Sikhote Alin mountain region with a small population in southwest Primorye Province in the Russian Far East.

The tiger named Amur is one of these animals. In April,  Amur turned four, and about a month ago, arrived his bride — the young Siberian tigress  Ussuri, from the Moscow nursery. She has not yet reached maturity and lives in a separate enclosure. In a year or so the two will be “betrothed.”

Amur enjoys a fine diet, including live rabbits and goats twice weekly. During his three years in the park  Amur devoured a lot of rabbits, goats and hunted boars.

About a week to the day, Amur received his bi-weekly live treat — a fine looking and very appetizing goat.


The goat, however, happened to be a fearless fellow. He pranced around the tiger and behaved like no goat Amur had ever seen or eaten. “Nobody taught this goat to be afraid of the tiger. And Amur has decided not to mess with so bold a goat — he didn’t touch him,” the park’s employee explained. “Moreover, the goat not only survived in the Amur’s enclosure, but managed to occupy the tiger’s “bedroom” and sleeps there for the fourth night already.” Amur is relinquished to the roof where he sleeps, not to disturb his obstreperous “dinner” that somehow escaped his fate and become a roommate instead of a prey.

For his courage, the goat is named Timur, like a great conqueror Tamerlane. Amur is still getting his live diet, but doesn’t consider Timur to be a food and at a mealtime ignores him entirely.

Amur and Timur are often seen walking together in a file. The goat  is following the tiger, perhaps thinking that Amur is a heard leader. “Timur’s fearlessness and Amur’s caution led to such a paradoxical result,” said the employees of the park.

The first caption on the video says, roughly: “The fifth day of friendship.” The second: “At the daytime, Amur and Timur come out into the large aviary and walk together. Timur follows Amur everywhere thinking he is a bellwether.”


If Irish Celebrated Thanksgiving Today


A painting by JLG Ferris, “The First Thanksgiving”: A band of starving pilgrims at Plymouth Rock were saved at the last minute by the arrival of a ship from Dublin.

Regardless of all other dates given as the day of the very first Thanksgiving , it was actually celebrated on Feb 21, 1621 when a band of starving pilgrims at Plymouth Rock were saved at the last minute by the arrival of a ship from Dublin, bearing food from Ireland.

If Thanksgiving were celebrated in Ireland today as it is celebrated in the USA, Irish people could have given thanks to their government for the repealing and clearing from the statute books, in March of this year, of exactly 5,782 regulations and orders dating from way before the Republic of Ireland became independent — some over 3 centuries back.

Reform Minister Brendan Howlin said it would “pave the way for further simplification and modernisation measures.”

An Bille um Athchóiriú an Dlí Reachtúil, 2015 Statute Law Revision Bill 2015 lists them all, from simply outdated to peculiar, unusual, strict, frightening, curious and amusing:

    • A declaration of 1654 ordering the removal of Catholic landowners with their wives, children and families from the provinces of Leinster, Munster and Ulster to Connacht.
    • Proclamation warning anybody who criticises the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, dated July 5, 1533 [Steele Vol. 1 p. 15] 
    • Proclamation forbidding anyone to carry a sword in the King’s presence, dated May 16, 1539 [Steele Vol. 1 p. 20]
    • Order offering a pardon in relation to crimes of rebellion before 1 May 1583, dated June, 1583 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 10]
    • Order prohibiting the sale of horses out of the Pale upon pain off death, dated May, 1590 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 12]
    • Proclamation forbidding the import of gunpowder, or its sale except to noblemen, sheriffs and justices of peace, August 20, 1595 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 13]
    • Order requiring regular attendance on public worship in the parish churches and publishing the Act of Uniformity [1560 (2 Eliz.) c. 2], dated October 24, 1605 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 17]
    • Order forbidding foreign travel and recalling children sent abroad for education, dated July 10, 1610 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 19] 
    • Proclamation enforcing certain laws including the prohibition of single women keeping taverns, dated October 31, 1612 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 20]
    • Proclamation banishing idle and wandering persons including Scotsmen without lawful business, dated August 25, 1625 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 28]
    • Order for the punishing of rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars and setting them to work, dated October 22, 1633 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 34]
Illustration by Sergei Kalinin.

Illustration by Sergei Kalinin (obviously non-Irish)

  • Proclamation forbidding drivers and butchers to drive cattle by night and the buying of cattle except from fairs and markets, dated August 22, 1625 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 29]
  • Proclamation providing that beggars and wandering persons (excluding children under the age of seven) are to be arrested, and whipped naked from the waist upwards till blood comes, dated August 24, 1625 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 29]
  • Proclamation ordering all strangers to leave Dublin in one hour, dated October 26, 1641 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 40]
  • Order prohibiting the intermarriage of officers or soldiers with Irish women, dated May 1, 1651 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 59]
  • Declaration offering rewards for the killing of wolves, dated June 29, 1653 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 64]
  • Declaration concerning the licensing of alcohol which is a cause of drunkenness and licentiousness in all sorts of people, dated July 15, 1653 [Steele Vol. 2 p. 65]
  • Order directing churchwardens to cooperate with the Lord Mayor regarding the reporting of immoral behaviour of citizens in their parishes, dated October 14, 1768 [D.G., Issue No. 1956]


If I were Irish, I’d immediately start exercising my new-found freedoms — criticizing the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, driving cattle by night and engaging in immoral behaviour  in front of Lord Mayor and an entire parish.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Beware! It Is Self-Aware!

NAOThe King’s Wise Men is the simplest induction puzzle there is: The King called the three wisest men in the country to his court to decide who would become his new adviser. He placed a hat on each of their heads, such that each wise man could see all of the other hats, but none of them could see their own. Each hat was either white or blue. The king informed the wise men  that at least one of them was wearing a blue hat, thus there could be one, two, or three blue hats, but not zero. The king also promised that the contest would be fair to everyone of the three men. The wise men were not allowed to communicate with one another. The first one of the three men to stand up and answer correctly what color is the hat on his head  would become the King’s new adviser. After awhile, one man stood up and announced the answer. The  answer was correct: His hat was blue … and so were the two others.

A variant of  this logical puzzle, simplified and adapted to robotics, was used by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor Selmer Bringsjord in an AI experiment.

The three cute and polite NAO robots  (and not the latest model at that) were made aware of a “dumbing pill”. What’s that?  It’s just a button on top of their heads. Tap the button and robot will be silenced — go “dumb.” The tester taps the head of each robot but silences only two out of the three.  One is able to speak.  Neither knows whether or not it was silenced.  The robots then asked which one “received the dumbing pill.”

All three of the robots will try to answer “I don’t know.” The one that wasn’t silenced  stands up and speaks up, “I don’t know.” It’ll take a robot only a second to realize that since it can speak,  it was the one  who didn’t receive the dumbing pill. Entirely on its own, the robot arrives at the logical conclusion and, without any pre-programmed instructions, politely corrects itself. The robot, scientists say, BECOMES SELF-AWARE.

Indeed, none of these except the knowledge about the dumbing pill were pre-programmed, thus the experiment was “clean” — no trick or prank. The NAO robot was able to understand the question, recognize its own voice and come to the conclusion that it’s logically impossible it received the dumbing pill. (I catch myself trying to say he, instead of  it  when addressing  genderless robots.)

However simplistic and crude, this AI test shows that artificial consciousness in its basic forms already exists, and gives us a  glimpse into the behavior of a truly sentient robot of the future.  Worthy of note also the fact that NAO aren’t even the most sophisticated robots, particularly the ones that took part in the experiment.

Thus beware and be warned: robots are really coming. Although Dr. Bringsjord  claims that the human mind will never (like never-ever) be surpassed by that of a machine. Do I wish to live long enough to see him being proven wrong?


Ecce Homo


In Evelyn Bencicova’s series ‘Ecce Homo,’ many faceless nude bodies appear in strange positions. Some are lying on shelves or tables, while others are sprawled in masses on the floor.ecce-home-3-totalcomingout
Ecce Homo is Latin for ‘behold the man,’ a common artistic motif with Biblical origins that has been expanded to include depictions of violence and war. Although Evelyn Bencicova’s scenes are not necessarily violent, they’re still wrapped in mystery, leaving the viewer in the dark about what has actually happened to these contorted bodies. (Ecce Homo by Evelyn Bencicova.)ecce-home-8-totalcomingout
Photography for Evelyn Bencicova isn’t just the image of a person or an object, but a thought process that manifests itself as the content of the image. Therefore, a picture for her  is a moment in a longer and multi-layered creative process, in which she is, effectively, a creator of sculptural arrays and directed scenes, rather than simply a photographer. ecce-home-2-totalcomingoutEvelyn admits that is not interested all that much in technical aspects of photography.ecce-home-4-totalcomingout
Through the treatment of the body as a large and flexible sculptural or choreographic device (with extensive use of props and different materials, such as molten wax, extravagant costumes, or even dead animals), Bencicova creates sharp visual gestures.ecce-home-5-totalcomingout
They do not represent something profound, but rather create a relationship between the people, the bodies, the environment, an audience and herself, the artist.ecce-home-7-totalcomingout
The models in the photographs are not explicitly sexual, rather genderless, sexless, faces hidden and bodies transformed into abstract shapes, creating intense images “built in” into a variety of spaces.Evelyn_Bencicova_04
Locations for her photo-shoots aren’t chosen arbitrarily or by chance. They are cold, bare, sterile. These are places where something happened, but what?Evelyn_Bencicova_05
Evelyn admits that her work is not about WHO is in the picture but, rather, WHAT is happening in the picture. Her models are often her friends, those who understand the message of the pictures and who are able to pose for several hours.

Well, I liked it, sort of.

Tempest In The Fandom

World-Fantasy-Award-Lovecraft-JPGThis is “Howard,” a bronze bust of H.P. Lovecraft by Gahan Wilson. Since 1975, this funny and slightly grotesque statue, equally lacking both pathos and irony was a trophy of the World Fantasy Award.

On November 8 of this year, at the World Fantasy Award ceremony, David Hartwell announced that this traditional — and controversial — award trophy will be retired and replaced by a different award trophy of yet unknown design. How come?

In 2011, that year best novel winner Nnedi Okorafor was stunned to discover that  Lovecraft  was also the author of the following  poem:

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger. 

               – H.P. Lovecraft, On the Creation of N*ggers (1912)

okoraforDismayed, Okorafor (the author is of Nigerian descent) wrote of her confusion — “a statuette of this racist man’s head is one of my greatest honours as a writer”.

She also asked China Miéville about his response to the award, and he said that he turned the statuette around:

“I have turned it to face the wall. […] I can look at it and remember the honour, and above all I am writing behind Lovecraft’s back.”

Nalo Hopkinson (a Jamaican speculative fiction writer and editor) came into the comments on the essay to give her solution:

“Like you and China, I was happy to accept the award itself. As to what I’ve done with the bust? I’ve turned Lovecraft’s face outwards. I want him to see me Breathing While Black.”

Daniel José Older has launched a petition calling for the organizers of the prize to make the late African-American science fiction writer Octavia Butler the inspiration for the statue rather than Lovecraft.


Earlier this summer, the old guard of fantasy got very uncomfortable over a petition I started asking for the World Fantasy Award to remove the bust of HP Lovecraft as its statuette and replace it with Octavia Butler. Lovecraft was an uneven craftsman at best – his stories clunk along, overburdened with adjectives and stale characters. It’s his world-building and imagination that helped solidify his legacy, but even that is tainted by a failure of craft and humanity. He detailed his rabid, paranoid racism in many letters, and it permeates his mythos. Lovecraft peopled his fiction with hordes of swarthy, child-killing and abjectly stupid black and brown people, while women are almost non-existent.”

Many were delighted with the “Howard’s” dishonorable retirement. But not everyone.

S. T. (Sunand Tryambak) Joshi, an Indian American literary critic, stjoshinovelist, and a leading figure in the study of H. P. Lovecraft and other authors of weird and fantastic fiction, clearly wasn’t happy about this development.

“It has come to my attention that the World Fantasy Convention has decided to replace the bust of H. P. Lovecraft that constitutes the World Fantasy Award with some other figure. Evidently this move was meant to placate the shrill whining of a handful of social justice warriors who believe that a “vicious racist” like Lovecraft has no business being honoured by such an award. (Let it pass that analogous accusations could be made about Bram Stoker and John W. Campbell, Jr., who also have awards named after them. These figures do not seem to elicit the outrage of the SJWs.)

Joshi writes, “If Nnedi Okorafor and China Miéville are so offended at owning the WFA, they should simply return it and be done with the matter.”

When it came to his attention that after a prolonged discussion of the matter, WFC decided not to award Lovecraft’s bust any longer,  Joshi returned his two World Fantasy Awards to the co-chairman of the WFC board, David G. Hartwell, and written a letter to this effect, the full text of which he posted on his blog.


Beneath The Black Square

black square

I’m no aficionado of many “isms” in modern arts, suprematism  being one of them. Many of my posts in the category of arts bespeaks of it. Thus Kazimir Malevich‘s Black Square (all  four of them) never stirred any deep emotions in me except for bewilderment and disdain.

I’d seen the “first original” of the painting in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow when it was not quite 50 years old, being first exhibited in 1915. I was young then, and felt quite inadequate, all right, but still couldn’t make myself stand there and appreciate the “cosmic blackness” of the canvas before me, no matter what art critics were saying.

A Short History Of BLACK CANVAS — Square And Otherwise, my earlier post, tells the story of Malevich’s square, which was neither the first nor the original creation. But he was the first one who insisted that the hoax, parlor fun, a mockery of art jotted to fetch a few laughs, is, indeed, a new word in art. And there were people around him who insisted on this concept among the sea of whistles and indignation, and they won.

Kazimir Malevich. Self-portrait.

Kazimir Malevich. Self-portrait.

Tomorrow, the Black Square will become a centerpiece of the Tretyakov Gallery’s current exhibition “The Mark of Malevich,” to commemorate and celebrate the centenary of the unveiling of the artist’s Black Square in 1915.

“The Mark of Malevich. Graphics From the State Tretyakov Gallery’s Collection” will run until February 14, 2016.

However, Wednesday in the Gallery wont’t be the usual shaming of skeptics into recognizing the black blotch on the canvas as a masterpiece. Oh, no. Tomorrow, at an exhibition opening, the gallery’s art experts will present an astounding findings discovered under the layer of black on that famous square…

The museum, which owns one of the three versions of the work, performed an x-ray analysis on the top layer of black paint to uncover the underlying images. The findings could reveal the story behind the groundbreaking artwork.

For years, there were rumors among the skeptics that the artist was unable to finish the picture at the time for the upcoming exhibition, and, mightily frustrated, covered the unfinished work with black paint. The unsuspecting audience lauded the black canvas as the new word in art. Malevich haven’t found the courage to dispel “the spell of the black”, rather, he perpetuated the legend.

He used to say that he had created The Black Square in a mystical trance, under the influence of a “cosmic consciousness” experience.

The suggestions to investigate the canvas for finding the original image under the top layer were made repeatedly. However, scientists and critics felt that the masterpiece could be irreparably damaged should it be subjected to any sort of analysis.

How odd it that! The works of Old Masters — El Greco, Cranach, Breughel, Rigaud, Largillière, Vigée Lebrun, Guercino and Bassano, British artists Raeburn, Lawrence, Romney, Reynolds and Wright of Derby, and 20th century artists such as  Vuillard, Marinetti, Hodgkin, and Jones — were analysed and underwent extensive restorations. But not Malevich — god forbid a spec of black should be disturbed! How would you restore it then!

And now, finally, the sacred black was x-rayed. Similar tests have been known to lead to breakthrough discoveries. Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie used x-rays to determine that a Rembrandt canvas had been repainted by Joshua Reynolds, and a second image was found beneath the surface of another painting by the Dutch master. There was even a new painting added to Claude Monet‘s oeuvre when his signature was found on a “Haystack” painting thanks to a hyperspectral camera.

“It was known that under the Black Square, there was some underlying image,” Ekaterina Voronina, an art researcher at the Tretyakov told Kultura TV. “We found out that there is not one image, but two.”

Malevich himself used to say that he had created “The Black Square” in a mystical trance, under the influence of a "cosmic consciousness" experience. Source: Yuri Somov / RIA Novosti

Malevich at the Tretyakov Gallery. Source: Yuri Somov / RIA Novosti

God in Heaves! He did, indeed, painted over his canvas to cover something else he was painting, and — viola tout! — critics gashed,  “Malevich freed the concept of art from all its traditional rules, signified the square as something new, attached to it a null form, and made it the basis of a new art, which he named Suprematism...”

“We proved that the initial image is a Cubo-Futurist composition, while the painting lying directly under the Black Square—the colors of which you can see in the cracks—is a proto-Suprematist composition.”

The x-ray analysis also uncovered a handwritten note by the artist on the painting’s white border which is still being deciphered. However, according to AFP, preliminary investigations have revealed that the text says “Black men battling in a cave.”

The note may be a reference to an 1897 black square painting by the French writer Alphonse Allais titled Combat des Negres dans une cave, pendant la nuit (“Black Men Fighting in a Cellar at Night.”)

If the preliminary interpretation holds up, it could support a connection to the earlier French painting, demonstrating that one of Malevich’s most famous works was in fact an art historical response or an interpretation of Allais’s piece, showing that the Russian artist’s pool of influences had been much broader than previously thought.


Right. Art historical response. That’s how plagiarism is called in art lingo, I suppose. Notice how oblique and vague is the verbiage used by the art researcher at the Tretyakov, as though painted over… Ah,well, I must be gloating. Can’t help it, though.

Victor Bogorad. To the centennial of The Black Square.

Victor Bogorad. To the centennial of The Black Square.

And another one as a finishing touch:

Time to get out, Malevich is coming.

Time to get out, Malevich is coming.

Meet The Artist: Gennady Shlykov


Gennady Shlykov, a member of the Russian Union of Artists since 1990, was born on July 3, 1957, in the Ryazan region, Russia. He is a self-taught artist and never studied painting or graduated from an art school of any kind.

странник strannik1

Bird Catcher

Bird Catcher

Gennady Shlykov took part in numerous national and international exhibitions. Since 1996, he is a permanent member of the Art-Manezh.

Moscow’s Manezh Exhibiton Center — ART MANEZH — is one of Russia’s biggest public art exhibitions. Several hundred Russian artists, both amateur and professional, exhibit their works there.

Gennady Shlykov. "The world is good and bright. To me it seems that way. You just have to take it as is, like children."

Gennady Shlykov. “The world is good and bright. To me it seems that way. You just have to take it as is, like children.”

These days, Shlykov’s works grace private art collections in Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Italy, Poland, USA, Canada, France, Switzerland, Finland and Japan. A number of his paintings were purchased by Ministries of Culture of Russian Federation and Ukraine.
Gennady Shlykov lives and works in Nikopol, Ukraine.

Hymn To The Past Year

Hymn To The Year Past

shlykov1 shlykov

Gennady Shlykov. Coquette


shlykov3 shlykov2

Кафе на монмартре

Coffee-shop on Montmartre

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.




This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Flaming Testicles

“Actionist” Pyotr Pavlensky

On November 10, 2013 on Red Square in Moscow Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to the stone pavement. God only knows how he did it, that is if he really managed to drive а nail into the cobblestone. Unbeknownst are the ways of a true artist…

I’ve written about Mr. Pavensky’s this and other exploits in the field of actionism with plenty of pictures in my post Tastefully Nailed Testicles.

Since then, more actions followed, because true actionist must act and shock.

In February 2014, near the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Pavlensky, along with other actionists, “staged” the Ukrainian Maidan. The “artists” brought fifty or so tires, gasoline, metal sheets, sticks and two flags — black anarchist and yellow-blue Ukrainian. The tires were stacked into a barricade and then set on fire. The metal sheets, struck by sticks, created a characteristic Kiev street fighting rhythm.pavlensky maidan The ruckus continued even while the firefighters tried extinguish the fire.
Mr. Pavlensky was detained by police. No serious repercussions followed, however. The district court of Saint Petersburg dropped all charges against him soon thereafter apparently for lack of evidence.

On October 19, 2014, Pavlensky staged yet another artistic stint, sitting naked on the roof of the State Research Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow, large knife in hand. He tried and apparently succeeded to cut off his earlobe (or hacked a chunk of it) with a knife in protest against the use of psychiatry for political purposes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“The knife separates the earlobe from the body… A concrete wall of Psychiatry separates the Society of Reasonable People from crazies. By using psychiatry for political purposes yet again, the police apparatus tries to regain the power of drawing the threshold between reason and madness. Armed with psychiatric diagnoses, the bureaucrat in a white coat carves out of society those pieces that prevent him from establishing a monolithic dictate, a one for all and compulsory for everybody,” Pavlensky said in a statement to the media.

Or something to this effect. He is a remarkably eloquent fellow. I translated his verbiage as close to the original as I knew how.

Mr. Pavlensky underwent psychiatric evaluation and, four days later, was once again found sane, thus not a subject to psychiatric intervention. It seems that these days Russian psychiatrists are terribly afraid of being accused of — yes, you guessed it — using psychiatry for political purposes. It’s much easier to declare citizen Pavlensky perfectly sane, rather than stand their ground and keep him from — if nothing else — harming himself, one anatomical part after another. Besides, the patient was doing it for the sake of sacred art.

Only a few days ago, aching for action actionist shocked and awed again. At 2 am, alone and fully dressed for a change, he splashed a canister of gasoline under a certain door on Lubyanka Square in Moscow and lit it with a lighter, setting it aflame. Mind you, it wasn’t just any door he choose at rendom, but the door of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) — the Russian CIA, that is. the door of FSB

The door burned much to the delight of numerous journalists, duly filming the door alight and the artist’s silhouette against the blazing fire. Because, you see, unless the “performance” is photographed, filmed and broadcast, the actionism is meaningless (aside for the damage to the artist and the property, if any.)

Of course, Pavlensky was detained by police, unless it was FSB. The question remains: Is Pavlensky going to be punished or get off scot-free this time around as well? Honestly, given Pavlensky’s prior brushes with the law and his luck in avoiding prosecution, I don’t know.

Now, lets imagine for a moment that some actionist would have attempted a protest action and approached the doors of CIA headquarters with the similar “artistic” intent. What do you think might have happened? Would the artistic expression of this sort have been duly appreciated by the CIA? FBI? Police?

The Mechanic-King Of Hohoe

kingThis handsome, colorfully bedecked man is Togbe Ngoryifia Céphas Kosi Bansah. Born on April 22, 1948, he also known as Céphas Bansah, and has a  title of the Ngoryifia (“developmental chief”) of the Gbi Traditional area of Hohoe, Ghana. He is often referred to as the King of Hohoe.

In addition to the 200 thousand citizens of Hohoe, 2 million Ewe people, living in Togo, consider him their leader and chief.

Ewe People

Ewe People

Despite his high statue, however, Céphas Bansah is also known as an accomplished auto mechanic, and not in his homeland, but in Germany, where he owns a garage. At the same, King Céphas Bansah tries his best to stay on top of his duties as a chief, working diligently to improve the lives of citizens.

king1In 1970, his grandfather, the King of Hohoe, sent his grandson to Germany, to learn a trade. After graduating, Céphas Bansah decided to stay in Germany — he met and fell in love with a German woman named Gabriele. Céphas Bansah opened an auto-mechanical service and lived quietly, happily married to Gabriele, brinning up their children.

King Togbe Ngoryifia Cephas Kosi Bansah, 66.

King Togbe Ngoryifia Cephas Kosi Bansah, 66.

Then, on one rather normal day in 1987, a Fax came from Ghana, and changed his life. Céphas Bansah’s grandfather died, and his father and older brother were declared unfit to rule because both of them were left-handed — “unclean”, according to the beliefs of the Ewe people.

Céphas Bansah succeeded his grandfather as the Ngoryifia of Hohoe. Immediately and resolutely he immersed himself in his newly acquired duties of a chief, using phone, Skype and e-mail, while at the same time still working nine to five in his garage.

The King still makes his home in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Several times a year he travels to Ghana, to get to know the needs of its citizens, often accompanied by his German wife. king3

Since 1992, the country has become a democracy, but the tribal kings continue to play a huge role in the life of its people. The King builds schools, bridges, wells, regularly sends over water purification equipment and donates vehicles. He helped his people secure medical services – 22 doctors now work in the area hospitals.

To raise money for these noble projects, Céphas Bansah appears on German national television and public events in Germany, often performing as a singer.ghanaYet another source of money to finance the King’s many projects benefiting his “democratic subjects” is “Akosombo,” — the beer that King brews and distributes,  though he never drinks alcohol.

Photographer Mirka Laura Severa met the King in 2009 during her studies in Ludwigshafen. Since then, she began documenting the life of the monarch, regularly traveling to Ghana and Togo with him, visiting his home, where he prepares delicious traditional dishes of oxtails, bananas and yams.

In November of last year, the King and Gabriele returned home to Ludwigshafen from Africa, only to find their house burglarized. Unfortunately, thieves stole almost all of his royal regalia, including 4 crowns and several gold chains his royal grandparents once owned. (I suppose, the bejeweled crown and golden chains adorning the King’s person on the photograph above and below are now gone as a result of this robbery.)

King Bansah and Queen Bansah

King Bansah and Queen Bansah

“Thieves had come [sic] over the balcony on the first floor, pried the door open, smashed the cabinets and ransacked everything,” Céphas Bansah told the UK’s Times newspaper.

According to the King, the hundred years old items are virtually irreplaceable. Their value was put at about €20,000 (£15,900).

As of this writing, it isn’t known whether or not the perpetrators has been apprehended and the stolen items recovered, although many sources repeated, reprinted and retold the reports of the robbery in the King’s quarters. To make the story of the stolen crowns even more profound, the story of the Hohoe’s mechanic-king has been brought to life. Heil to the Chief! Too bad about the jewelry, though.

Catch A Cockroach…


Cockroaches, fortunately, are not an everyday occurrence in my life. However, if in the same day you come across not one but three stories related to cockroaches, perhaps, it’s worth mentioning.

The first story comes from China: One million cockroaches escape from Chinese farm.
At least one million cockroaches have reportedly escaped a farm in China where they were being bred for use in traditional medicine.

Unidentified wildlife enthusiast — cockroach sympathizer? —  broke into the enclosed area where the insects were held and cracked the terrarium open. To this day, residents of a small town next to the farm remember the event and curse the guy back and forth: instead of running into the unknown wilderness, cockroaches smartly decided to resettle in the town’s warm and comfortable apartments.

Another one was reported in BBC News Magazine: How cockroaches could save lives.

“Cockroaches are often associated with dirty kitchens and grimy bathrooms — scuttling away as soon as you enter the room and turn on the light. But pest controllers aren’t the only people interested in them — these insects are inspiring research into antibiotics, robots and mechanical limbs,” writes Mary Colwell in the article.

And on a humorous note, from the Russian source, comes a newspaper article Fortune-telling using a cockroach.

гадание на таракане

A fortune-telling with a cockroach.

This is an image of an article in an unidentified Russian newspaper, appearing, appropriately, in the section UNKNOWN or, rather, UNBEKNOWNST. Wanted to learn everything about yourself but didn’t know how? Read translation below (loose translation is mine with a few comments.) To glean the most benefit from it, you need to catch yourself a cockroach.

Thus catch a cockroach, any random cockroach will do — it’ll be YOUR cockroach. Now observe and scrutinize it carefully.tarakan

    • Is it healthy and vigorous? If the answer is yes then your house is in order and your family life is satisfying. (Healthy and vigorous cockroaches, like happy and orderly households with untidy kitchens. VG)cartoon-cockroach-vector-illustration-34820119
    • Is it appear weakly and lethargic? Your wife/husband should feed you better. (Or feed a cockroach. Ordinarily, cockroaches aren’t fussy eaters. VG)
    • Is it red in color? A redheaded person is in love with you.
    • Is it green? Rejoice! Money is coming to you.t1
    • Is it constantly moving its whiskers? You are full of energy. (If you don’t quite feel energized — try multivitamins. VG)
    • Is it frozen in its tracks? You must be a philosopher. (Yes, you are, even if you don’t know it. Pick a subject and start philosophizing. VG)
    • Does it look startled? You feel under-appreciated.
    • Does your cockroach looks frightened? You are a person who can stand your ground.
    • Is it bright blue, horned and speaks fluent English? Congratulations, you have delirium tremens.таракан7

Now carefully measure your cockroach.t1

  • If the length of a cockroach is less than 1 centimeter — then you are a reliable family person;
  • If it’s length is more than 3 centimeters — then you are a seeker. (What is it exactly you seek isn’t specified. You must know better. VG)

What can cockroach whiskers tell us? t1

  • The spread of cockroach whiskers equal to the length of your nose: You are an inquisitive person. (This discovery is possible if you measure your nose for the sake of comparison. VG)
  • One whisker is shorter than the other: You haven’t quite realized your tremendous potential. (Now run along and realize it. Make your cockroach happy. VG)
  • The total length of the whiskers is equal to the length of its body, multiplied by the square root of the diameter of its belly, divided by the logarithm of the number of its legs: Well, this might mean that you are a scrupulous and meticulous person. (Some rudimentary knowledge of math is necessary to come to this conclusion. VG)

And now pay attention to the cockroach’s legs.

  • If the legs are evenly distributed along its body:  You might need an appointment with psychiatrist. (Tell him/her everything. Show him/her your cockroach. You’ll feel better immediately. VG)
  • If the length and width of its legs are equal: This insect might as well be a bedbug. (And those little critters are bad news, unless you don’t know it already. VG)

Now set the cockroach free and let it run along as it pleases.hohmodrom_Tarakan

  • If the cockroach runs straight forward: The best part of your life is still ahead of you. (Good news if you ever doubted. VG)
  • If it runs to the left: Look forward to a heartbreaking encounter. (Might as well you’ll be hit over the head with a wet sack as you turn the corner of the house to your left. VG)
  • If it runs to the right: Be careful in your professional life — a backstabbing coworker sits to the right of you.
  • If it runs toward you: You are an intriguing person. (The person you intrigue the most might be found in every which direction. VG)
  • If it flops on its back legs up: It is dead. (Catch yourself another cockroach. VG)