Missing ‘Picasso’ thought found in Romania a hoax: report

Missing ‘Picasso’ thought found in Romania a hoax: report
In this Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 file photo, the empty space where Henri Matisse' painting "La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune" was hanging, right, is seen next to a painting by Maurice Denis, center, and Pierre Bonnard, left, at Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (AP)
Updated 19 November 2018

Missing ‘Picasso’ thought found in Romania a hoax: report

Missing ‘Picasso’ thought found in Romania a hoax: report
  • Romanian authorities said that it “might be” Picasso’s painting, which is estimated to be worth 800,000 euros ($915,000)

THE HAGUE: A writer who thought she had found a masterpiece by Pablo Picasso stolen in an infamous art heist six years ago said Sunday she was the victim of a “publicity stunt,” the NOS Dutch public newscaster reported.
Picasso’s “Harlequin Head” was one of seven celebrated paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 2012 during a daring robbery local media dubbed “the theft of the century.”
The artworks have not been seen since.
Around 10 days ago, Mira Feticu, a Dutch writer of Romanian origin who wrote a novel based on the heist, was sent an anonymous letter.
“I received a letter in Romanian with instructions regarding the place where the painting was hidden,” she told AFP.
The instructions led her to a forest in eastern Romania where she dug up an artwork.
Romanian authorities, who received the canvas on Saturday night, said that it “might be” Picasso’s painting, which is estimated to be worth 800,000 euros ($915,000). Experts were checking whether it was authentic.
However on Sunday night Feticu told NOS that she was the victim of a performance by two Belgian directors in Antwerp.
Feticu said she received an email from the Belgian duo explaining that the letter was part of a project called “True Copy” dedicated to the notorious Dutch forger Geert Jan Jansen, whose fakes flooded the art collections of Europe and beyond until he was caught in 1994.
“Part of this performance was prepared in silence in the course of the past few months, with a view to bringing back Picasso’s ‘Tete d’Arlequin’,” the directors wrote on their website.
Their production company “currently wishes to abstain from any comment” because it first wants to speak Fetuci, the statement said.
“We will be back with more details on this issue within the next few days.”


Maskless Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan teams make for awkward moment at Olympic opening ceremoney

Maskless Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan teams make for awkward moment at Olympic opening ceremoney
Updated 23 July 2021

Maskless Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan teams make for awkward moment at Olympic opening ceremoney

Maskless Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan teams make for awkward moment at Olympic opening ceremoney
  • One of the central Asian country's athletes covered his face while others waved and smiled as they walked in

TOKYO: Kyrgyzstan’s Olympic team paraded maskless into Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium at Friday’s Games opening ceremony, marking an awkward contrast with all the national teams who had preceded them in masks — and in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.
Just one of the central Asian country’s athletes covered his face, with the other members of the small delegation, including its two flag bearers, waving and smiling as they walked in.
A short while later the Tajikistan team marched in similarly maskless, while Pakistan’s two flagbearers also chose not to cover their faces, unlike the vast majority of the other participants at the ceremony.
Tokyo 2020 organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the delegations without masks.


Egyptian man seen parading lion on his shoulder arrested

Egyptian man seen parading lion on his shoulder arrested
Updated 23 July 2021

Egyptian man seen parading lion on his shoulder arrested

Egyptian man seen parading lion on his shoulder arrested
  • According to local media, the five-month-old lion was being held illegally

DUBAI: Egyptian authorities on Thursday confiscated a lion after a man was seen parading the animal in the streets of Ain Sokhna. 

The man, carrying the lion on his shoulder, was subsequently arrested along with two other people. 

He was identified as a photographer from Cairo. 

According to local media, the five-month-old lion was being held illegally with the aim of partaking in a photoshoot to attract tourists to the area. 

The video caused uproar on social media, with users reminding that conditions at a residential home are inappropriate for a wild animal.


Iran launches matchmaking app as fertility rates fall

Iran launches matchmaking app as fertility rates fall
Updated 21 July 2021

Iran launches matchmaking app as fertility rates fall

Iran launches matchmaking app as fertility rates fall
  • App offers matching and counselling services to prospective couples and their families
  • Western-style dating is banned under Iran’s Islamic laws

DUBAI: Iran, facing a fall in fertility rates, has launched a state-approved matchmaking app to promote marriages in the Islamic country which restricts contact between unrelated men and women.
Hamdam (Companion), developed by a state-affiliated Islamic cultural body, requires users to verify their identity and carries out psychological compatibility tests and gives advice for young singles seeking a marriage partner.
The app offers matching and counselling services to prospective couples and their families, and remains in touch with them for four years after marriage, the semi-official news agency Fars reported.
Western-style dating is banned under Iran’s Islamic laws but many young people reject traditional arranged marriages and want to decide their own future.
Officials have expressed concern that Iran’s population could be among the oldest in the world in two decades after the fertility rate among Iranian women dropped 25 percent over the past four years, according to Iranian media reports. The fertility rate is about 1.7 children per woman.
Iran started reversing its family planning policies a decade ago, making contraception, which had been available for free, gradually more difficult to get.
In 2014 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an edict that said boosting the population would “strengthen national identity” and counter “undesirable aspects of Western lifestyles.”
Iran’s parliament has passed provisions to provide financial incentives for childbirth and marriage, including loans and handouts to young married couples with several children.


Japan police find Ugandan weightlifter who went missing from Olympic camp

Japan police find Ugandan weightlifter who went missing from Olympic camp
Updated 20 July 2021

Japan police find Ugandan weightlifter who went missing from Olympic camp

Japan police find Ugandan weightlifter who went missing from Olympic camp
  • Disappearance of Julius Ssekitoleko came at a time of high public concern over coronavirus risks as thousands of foreigners arrive for the Games

TOKYO: A Ugandan weightlifter has been found four days after he disappeared from an Olympic training camp in Japan leaving a note saying he wanted to find work, police said Tuesday.
The disappearance of Julius Ssekitoleko came at a time of high public concern over coronavirus risks as thousands of foreigners arrive for the Games.
“Today, the man was found in Mie Prefecture with no injuries and no involvement in any crime,” an Osaka police official, who declined to be named, told AFP.
“He carried his own ID and identified himself. It is not certain to whom we should send the man — the team or the embassy.”
The alarm was raised on Friday after Ssekitoleko failed to show up for a coronavirus test and was not in his hotel room.
The 20-year-old had recently found out he would not be able to compete at the Tokyo Games, which open on Friday, because of a quota system.
A note was found in his room requesting his belongings be sent to his family in Uganda, according to officials in Izumisano city in Osaka prefecture, where the team were training.
Police said Ssekitoleko had traveled to Nagoya in central Japan and then to nearby Gifu prefecture, before moving south to Mie.
“He was found in a house belonging to people who have a connection to the man. He did not offer resistance. He was talking frankly. We are still questioning him about his motive,” the police official said.
When Uganda’s delegation arrived in Japan last month, a coach tested positive on arrival, with another member of the delegation also testing positive later.
Virus cases are rising in Tokyo, which is under a state of emergency, and there is heavy scrutiny in Japan of infection risks linked to the Games.
Athletes and other Olympic participants are subject to strict rules including regular testing and limits on their movement.


Greek traditional wooden boat builders a dwindling craft

Greek traditional wooden boat builders a dwindling craft
Updated 20 July 2021

Greek traditional wooden boat builders a dwindling craft

Greek traditional wooden boat builders a dwindling craft
  • The time and effort that goes into production means boatbuilders often form a bond with their creations

DRAKAIOI, Greece: On the forested slopes of an island mountain, early morning mist swirling around its peak, the unmistakable form of a traditional Greek wooden boat emerges: a caique, or kaiki, the likes of which has sailed these seas for hundreds of years.
Each beam of wood, each plank, has been felled, trimmed and shaped by one man alone, hauled and nailed into place using techniques handed down through generations, from father to son, uncle to nephew. But the current generation could be the last.
Wooden boats are an integral part of the Greek landscape, adorning tourist brochures, postcards and countless holiday snaps. They have been sailing across Greece for centuries, used as fishing boats, to transport cargo, livestock and passengers and as pleasure craft.
But the art of designing and building these vessels, done entirely by hand, is under threat. Fewer people order wooden boats since plastic and fiberglass ones are cheaper to maintain. And young people aren’t as interested in joining a profession that requires years of apprenticeship, is physically and mentally draining and has an uncertain future.
“Unfortunately, I see the profession slowly dying,” said Giorgos Kiassos, one of the last remaining boatbuilders on Samos, an eastern Aegean island that was once a major production center.
“If something doesn’t change, there will come a time when there won’t be anyone left doing this type of job. And it’s a pity, a real pity,” Kiassos said during a brief break in his mountain boatyard where, between walnut and wild mulberry trees, he is working on two: a 14-meter (45-foot) pleasure craft and a 10-meter (about a 30-foot) fishing boat.
The boats are being made to order, with the bigger one costing around 60,000 euros ($70,000), and the smaller one around 30,000 euros ($35,000).
Samos caiques are famed both for their workmanship and their raw material: timber from a pine species whose high resin content makes it durable and more resistant to woodworm. A few decades ago, numerous boatyards dotted the island, providing a major source of employment and sustaining entire communities. Now there are only about four left.
“Yes, it’s an art, but it’s also heavy work, it’s tough work. It’s manual labor that’s tiring, and now the young people, none of them are following,” Kiassos said. He’s encouraged his 23-year-old son to learn, but he isn’t particularly interested. He hopes to become a merchant captain instead.
Kostas Damianidis, an architect with a Ph.D. on Greek traditional boatbuilding, said there are several reasons for the dramatic decline in shipwrights, or traditional boatbuilders, throughout Greece.
“It is a traditional craft which is slowly dying, and yet it’s treated as if it were a simple manufacturing or supply business. There is no support from the state,” he said.
What’s more, for years the European Union, of which Greece is a member, has subsidized the physical destruction of these vessels as a way of reducing the country’s fishing fleet. The practice has led to thousands of traditional fishing boats, some described by conservationists as unique works of art, being smashed by bulldozers.
The policy is “a big blow to wooden shipbuilding,” Damianidis said. “They might be old boats, but this is a disdain of the craft. When a young person sees that they’re smashing wooden boats as useless things, why should they bother to learn how to make them?”
For their creators, the destruction is heartbreaking.
“It’s a bad thing, very bad. Because this art is one of the best and one of the most difficult. An ancient art,” retired boatbuilder Giorgos Tsinidelos said. Now 75, he started working at the age of 12 at his grandfather’s boatyard on Samos. He spent years as an apprentice before moving to the major shipbuilding area of Perama, near Greece’s main port of Piraeus.
“You don’t learn this job in a year or two. It takes many years,” he said. “Don’t forget that you take wood and you create a masterpiece, a boat.”
Another major factor in the rapidly dwindling number of shipwrights is the lack of any formal education.
“Young people have to go learn beside the old craftsmen, often for five years, six years, for them to be able to make a small boat, a kaiki, themselves,” Damianidis said. “There is no boatbuilding school.”
Damianidis is the curator of a new museum of Aegean Boatbuilding and Maritime Crafts being set up on Samos, and hopes a traditional boatbuilding school, which would be Greece’s first, will open in the museum.
That could also help Samos’ last boatbuilders, who now work mainly alone due to a shortage of skilled assistants.
“It’s important to have someone experienced because if you make one mistake, especially in the first stages of (building) the boat, the boat might end up being — well, more of a basin than a boat,” chuckled Kiassos.
Like Tsinidelos and all the current boatbuilders, Kiassos started young. Now 47, he’s been working for more than 30 years but says he’s still learning. As a schoolboy, he would sit in his uncle’s boatyard, watching logs morph into beautiful vessels. He began working there at 16 while finishing school.
He learned when the right season is to fell the trees — when to use naturally curved timber, and where on the boat each piece should go. Get that wrong, and the vessel could end up with problems, he explains. Get it right, and his creation combines beauty, function and durability.
The time and effort that goes into production means boatbuilders often form a bond with their creations, and eventually delivering them to their owners is often bittersweet.
Kiassos says he’s eager to finish each boat and start on the next.
“But when it leaves, I’m somehow sad. Yes, I’ll be happy when I see it in the water and I see everything is OK, but it’s like something is leaving — like a piece of me, how can I say it?” He grasps for words. “It might sound a bit strange the way I’m saying it, but that’s how it is.”
Despite the bleak outlook for his profession’s future, another Samos boatbuilder, 45-year-old Andreas Karamanolis, remains hopeful.
“I believe that people will return to the wooden boat. I want to believe it. Because the truth is, no other boat has the durability of the wooden boat. Not the plastic ones, not any of them,” he said. “Wood is a living organism, which no matter how many years you use it, it continues to be alive.”