Artist Afewerk Tekle
Born in 1932, Afewerk Tekle was one of Ethiopia’s most distinguished and colourful artistic figures. Educated at the Slade School of Art in London, he later toured and studied in continental Europe before returning to work under the patronage of Emperor Haile Selassie. A painter, sculptor and designer, he was also a master fencer, dancer and toastmaster.
Proud to have ‘survived three regimes’ (when friends and peers did not), Tekle's life was hardly without incident. In almost cinematic style, a ‘friendly’ fencing match turned into an attempt on his life, and a tussle over a woman led to his challenging his rival to a duel at dawn. In the royal court of the emperor, he once only just survived an assassination attempt by poisoned cocktail.
The artist famously made his own terms and conditions: if he didn’t like the purchaser he wouldn’t sell, and his best known paintings must be returned to Ethiopia within a lifetime. He even turned down over US$12 million for the work considered his masterpiece, The Meskel Flower.
Afewerk Tekle died in Addis Ababa at the age of 80 in April 2012.
The Abyssinian Lions of Addis
The rather grim enclosures of Addis Ababa Zoo (which was closed for reconstruction works at the time of research) may seem like an unusual place from which to receive exciting news from the world of lions. But in 2012 researchers made a remarkable discovery: the zoo's lions may represent the last of a genetically distinct sub-species of lion – the Abyssinian lion.
Scientists had long thought the Addis lions to be different – they are generally smaller and stockier than other lions, and the Addis males have manes that continue down under their torso and along the belly. When scientific samples were taken, the results, published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, revealed that no other known lions possess the same DNA.
The lions descend from five male and two female lions which came from Emperor Haile Selassie's private collection when he established the zoo in 1948. Controversy surrounds where the lions originally came from. The royal palace was adamant at the time that the zoo's lions derived from a source population in southwestern Ethiopia, although scientists have always disputed the claim. While calling for better protection and a captive breeding program for these, the last lions of their kind, scientists have also begun the search for similar populations in the wild. One promising possibility is the lion population of Babille Elephant Sanctuary and surrounding areas in the east of the country – the lions from Babille are known for their black manes – although no results have yet emerged from the scientific quest to track down wild Abyssinian lions.