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China: a Town's Traditional Fire Fest...
Dali, China
By Teo Butturini
11 Aug 2013

The town of Dali lies on the banks of the Erhai lake, at the center of the Chinese province of Yunnan. Dali’s Old Town district can be dated back to the fourteenth century, the time of the Ming dynasty. It holds the ancient city wall and traditional houses that are typical of this Chinese region.

In the first half of August, the local Yi and Bai minorities celebrate the Torch Festival to commemorate Atilaba, a legendary character who, according to local beliefs, drove away locusts using torches made from pine trees. It is the largest local festival, and each minority celebrates it on a different day, according to its own calendar.

Most of the people here celebrate with their families. Family members gather for a big dinner before taking the traditional walk on the streets holding torches. Restaurants and hotels prepare for this day by buying huge food supplies to serve thousands of tourists who come to Dali to attend the rituals.
People in the Old Town start their day very early to prepare for the Torch Festival. Street vendors set up their stands at six in the morning to serve the huge numbers of customers.
Pork and chicken butchers slaughter animals brought from the countryside, letting blood run copiously to give a scene that some might not be able to stomach.

By nine in the morning markets and streets are bustle with people selling and buying food, toys, decorations, and torches for the celebrations that will start at night.

A huge number of tourists, both Chinese and foreigners, contribute to the confusion and make it a challenge to walk the streets of Dali on this day.
The smell of all kinds of food starts to spread everywhere, and it is difficult to avoid stopping here and there to have a taste of some local snacks while waiting for the sunset.

As soon as it gets dark the locals leave their homes and light up the big torches they have set up right in front of their doors, or dance in circles around bonfires in the town’s main squares.

Others walk down the road and, following the tradition, hold small torches while throwing a mixture of sawdust and pine resin at other people’s torches to start a flare. This is a way to wish friends and relatives well; throwing resin powder on an old man’s fire symbolizes wishing him long life and good health.

Nowadays the rituals have changed. The younger generations probably got bored with the ancient celebrations, and decided to add their twist. They run around town with bags full of sawdust and take people by surprise by throwing it on their torches to create a flare and scare them.
They indiscriminately attack friends and strangers, and the festival suddenly turns into a of street battle between teenagers. Luckily, flames subside quickly and do not harm those who fall victims to the teenagers’ pranks, even if they might look on fire.

A large number of policemen and firefighters stand by on the streets to keep the situation under control and make sure youngsters do not go too wild. As soon as they leave, though, the game starts again and goes on till late, especially in hangouts like the Bad Monkey. A group of foreigners got together there to enjoy the festival – they got drunk and lit up the road in front of the bar during the whole night.

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Salt of the Earth: The Ancient Villag...
Nuodeng
By David Tacon
14 Jun 2013

Like in Europe, salt has played a significant role in Asian history for thousands of years and has been a driver of commerce: a relatively rare, high-value product which could be exchanged for other high-value products from tea to silk. The English word “salary” dates back to the time when Roman soldiers were paid in part with salt.

A tax on salt was one of the causes of the French Revolution. More than a seasoning, salt is a preservative which can keep meat and other foods from spoiling, a quality which made it indispensable for long winters and long journeys by land and sea. Much of its trade in Asia took place along the famed Tea Horse Road – a route that stretched from China’s Sichuan Province, through Yunnan Province, to Tibet, Myanmar and India.

The ancient village of Nuodeng, nestled in a valley in Yunnan, 165 km northwest of Dali, is one of the province’s only sources of salt. As far back as the Han Dynasty, more than two thousand years ago, the village’s plentiful salt reserves have been mined from salt wells. Cylinders of brine-boiled salt from Nuodeng and legs of its famous salt-cured ham were carried to the furthest reaches of the Tea Horse Road. In the process, Nuodung grew so wealthy that it became known as the richest village in China.

Centuries of prosperity came to an end when China’s salt industry was nationalized in 1949. Evidence of past riches can still be seen in some of the older mansions and ancestral halls. To this day, descendants of salt merchant families continue to extract salt from brine by boiling it over huge wood-fired cauldrons.

Yankun Yang, her husband Bingquan and their two adult sons are one of a handful of families who carry on the tradition of salt production in Nuodeng. “Making salt is not particularly complicated, but it is time consuming,” Yankun explains. “To make fine salt, one needs patience as well as an understanding of heat and evaporation.”

It takes about a day to make salt. As water evaporates, white salt crystals are heaped into wooden baskets to dry in the sun. The salt is then pressed into cylinders with a two piece bamboo mould before finally being arranged on an iron tray to harden over coals.

“It is potassium that makes our salt special. It’s indispensable for Nuodeng ham and it’s what gives it its unique flavour,” says Yankun. Both salt and salt-cured Nuodeng ham is still a major source of income for the village, along with tourism. “It’s an integral part of life in our community.”

A visit to Nuodeng is a journey into Chinese history. The village curls through a steep valley in a yin-yang S-shape. Its tumbledown walls, ancient streets and mountainous scenery create an atmosphere of great beauty and serenity. The clang of bells that hang from the harnesses of horses and donkeys, echo through the ochre-hued hills. These four-legged all-terrain vehicles are still used today by residents to transport heavy loads up the steep steps of Nuodeng, much of which remains inaccessible to modern machines.

Interest in Nuodeng’s salt-cured ham skyrocketed two years ago when the village was featured on the hugely successful culinary series A Bite of China, produced by China Central Television. Demand for Nuodeng ham increased seventeen-fold overnight. Ayi Huang, who also runs a guesthouse for tourists, follows the same recipe for ham passed down through generations.

Each year during the Chinese New Year festivities, the Huang family slaughters pigs to make around 14 legs of ham. “I like white pigs best because they have more dark meat and less fat compared to black and brown pigs”, she says.

There are five stages to ham production: first the pork is ‘dressed’ – that is, excess fat and skin is removed. It is then drained of blood, to ensure it does not spoil. Before the pork is rubbed with salt from hoof to haunch, it is cured with a locally distilled corn spirit known as baogujiu and then hung to dry for between 12 to 24 months.

Most family homes in Nuodeng have a room set aside for drying ham. Hygiene is paramount when making ham. “We have to be very careful to make sure that no flies get into the room. If even one fly gets in, all the ham could be ruined.”

The ham has a delicate, slightly sweet flavour not unlike Spanish jamon. The secret to its taste, Ayi Huang believes, is in the pigs’ diet, which consists entirely of locally grown corn, yellow beans and green vegetables. The ham is sold locally for 100 CNY per kilogram and is so valuable to the town’s economy that those who make it rarely eat it themselves.

“It’s only served to very important guests,” Ayi Huang’s sister-in-law Soaozi Huang explains. “If there’s no ham on the table, it’s not a banquet.”

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Occupy Parliament Demonstrations Nair...
Nairobi, Kenya
By Nick Klaus
11 Jun 2013

A protestor shows the fake money intented to mock the MPs of kenya in protest of the MPs salary rise.

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Occupy Parliament Demonstrations Nair...
Nairobi, Kenya
By Nick Klaus
11 Jun 2013

Protesters dance infront of the parliament gate in protest against the MPs salary rise

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With Pigs And Blood (8 of 8)
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
15 May 2013

Demonstrators confront police officers as they protested a scheme by Kenya's new Members of Parliament to increase their salaries from US$ 6,333 to US$ 10,119. Kenyan demonstrators released dozens of piglets at the gates of parliament and poured blood on the entrance today to protest demands by newly elected lawmakers for a wage hike. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters and beat others. PHOTO/TOM MARUKO

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KENYAN PROTESTERS LEAVE PIGLETS IN P...
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
14 May 2013

A protest in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi over the wage increase proposed by the Members of the National Assembly, from US$6,333 to US$10,119. The National Assembly has 349 MPs, while the Senate has 67 members, totaling 416, in addition to two speakers and two clerks for the two tier chambers.

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With Pigs And Blood, Kenyans Protest ...
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
14 May 2013

KENYAN PROTESTERS LEAVE PIGLETS AT THE PARLIAMENT ENTRANCE

Nairobi, Kenya may 14 2013
SHOT LIST
1. PROTESTERS RALLYING AND PREPARING TO MARCH TO PARLIAMENT, KENYA’S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY (PARLIAMENT)
2. BITE 1: KENYAN ACTIVIST "We are here to defend the constitution against parliamentary greed... We are going to occupy parliament to stop greed and to defend the new constitution."
3. PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
4. PROTESTERS SING AT THE GATE
5. PROTESTERS BRING LIVE PIGLETS AND A LARGE MALE PIG TO THE PARLIAMENT GATES
6. PIGS AND BLOOD AT PARLIAMENT ENTRANCE
7. BITE 2: ROY AWATIS-ENGLISH “Basically is symbolic because what we call them is ‘MPigs’ (Members of Parliament) so what we did, we brought pigs here and we slaughtered them because the point was we are slaughtering them, we slaughtered the pigs and we laid the blood down at the gate and that is very symbolic for MPigs (Members of Parliament) to know that we see what they are doing and we will not accept it.”
8. PIGS
9. PROTEST MARCHING THROUGH NAIROBI STREET
TEXT
Kenyan Civil Society Organizations on Monday staged a protest against a move by MPs to increase their pay perks and allowances.
The anti- MPs’-greed protest was dramatically staged with a drove of piglets herded to the door steps of Kenya’s Parliament to register their concerns over what they see as greed underlying the unsustainable, unaffordable increase in MP salaries.
The protest caught MPs and parliamentary security unawares and drew live piglets and a bigger male one at the Kenyan National Assembly entrance used by Members of Parliaments
Police officers in riot gear watched as the protesters picketed with posters asking MPs to stop their greed for usurping public funds.
The protest comes just days after the new Kenyan President and ICC suspect on crime against Humanity during the 2007/08 post election violence Uhuru Kenyatta added his voice against the greed by MPs to hike their pay and allowances even before earning their first salary.
Kenya’s recent established Salaries and Remuneration Commission has stood firm arguing against the demand by Members of Parliaments saying it is not sustainable.
The commission recommended that Members of National Assembly be paid at US$ 6, 333 while the legislators are demanding US$ 10,119. The National Assembly has 349 MPs while Senate has 67 members bring the total to 416 plus two speakers and two clerks for the two-tiered chambers.
Kenyan members of the Nation assembly are the highest paid in the region.
END

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With Pigs And Blood (7 of 8)
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
14 May 2013

Armed Kenyan police officers stand at the Kenya’s Parliament entrance.

Kenyan protesters march in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 14, 2013, as they protested a scheme by Kenya's new Members of Parliament to increase their salaries from US$ 6,333 to US$ 10,119. Kenyan demonstrators released dozens of piglets at the gates of parliament and poured blood on the entrance today to protest demands by newly elected lawmakers for a wage hike. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters and beat others. PHOTO/TOM MARUKO

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With Pigs And Blood (6 of 8)
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
14 May 2013

A Kenyan protestor squats near the piglets at the gates of parliament.
Kenyan protesters march in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 14, 2013, as they protested a scheme by Kenya's new Members of Parliament to increase their salaries from US$ 6,333 to US$ 10,119. Kenyan demonstrators released dozens of piglets at the gates of parliament and poured blood on the entrance today to protest demands by newly elected lawmakers for a wage hike. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters and beat others. PHOTO/TOM MARUKO

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With Pigs And Blood (2 of 8)
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
14 May 2013

Kenyan protesters march in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 14, 2013, as they protested a scheme by Kenya's new Members of Parliament to increase their salaries from US$ 6,333 to US$ 10,119. Kenyan demonstrators released dozens of piglets at the gates of parliament and poured blood on the entrance today to protest demands by newly elected lawmakers for a wage hike. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters and beat others. PHOTO/TOM MARUKO

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KENYANS PROTEST MP SALARY INCREASE WI...
Nairobi, Kenya
By Editor's Picks
14 May 2013

STORY OVERVIEW: Kenyan civil society organizations staged a protest on Monday to decry the move by MPs to increase their pay perks and allowances. The anti-greed protest was dramatically staged, with a drove of piglets herded to the door steps of Parliament to draw attention to their concerns over what they see as greed underlying the unsustainable, unaffordable increase in MP salaries. CLICK ON VIDEO THUMBNAIL BELOW FOR SHOT LIST & TRANSCRIPTION.

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With Pigs And Blood (1 of 8)
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
14 May 2013

Kenyan protesters march in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 14, 2013, as they protested a scheme by Kenya's new Members of Parliament to increase their salaries from US$ 6,333 to US$ 10,119. Kenyan demonstrators released dozens of piglets at the gates of parliament and poured blood on the entrance today to protest demands by newly elected lawmakers for a wage hike. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters and beat others. PHOTO/TOM MARUKO

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With Pigs And Blood (4 of 8)
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
14 May 2013

Kenyan protesters march in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 14, 2013, as they protested a scheme by Kenya's new Members of Parliament to increase their salaries from US$ 6,333 to US$ 10,119. Kenyan demonstrators released dozens of piglets at the gates of parliament and poured blood on the entrance today to protest demands by newly elected lawmakers for a wage hike. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters and beat others. PHOTO/TOM MARUKO

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With Pigs And Blood (3 of 8)
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
14 May 2013

Kenyan protesters march in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 14, 2013, as they protested a scheme by Kenya's new Members of Parliament to increase their salaries from US$ 6,333 to US$ 10,119. Kenyan demonstrators released dozens of piglets at the gates of parliament and poured blood on the entrance today to protest demands by newly elected lawmakers for a wage hike. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters and beat others. PHOTO/TOM MARUKO

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With Pigs And Blood (5 of 8)
Nairobi, Kenya
By marukophoto
14 May 2013

A mature male pig among other piglets is seen here laying at the entrance to the Kenyan parliament.
Kenyan protesters march in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 14, 2013, as they protested a scheme by Kenya's new Members of Parliament to increase their salaries from US$ 6,333 to US$ 10,119. Kenyan demonstrators released dozens of piglets at the gates of parliament and poured blood on the entrance today to protest demands by newly elected lawmakers for a wage hike. Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters and beat others. PHOTO/TOM MARUKO