Aug 23, 2018

Check Out 'Jember,' the First Ethiopian Comic Book Super Hero



The story follows a young college graduate named Amanuel who, after much efforts trying to solidify his career, finds disappointment in his non-success. His attempted quest to make a life for himself by pursuing the ticket that will grant him the opportunity to pursue the facade of the American dream, in connection to his American girlfriend, comes to a halt. His initial quest brings him face to face with decisions that involve sacrifice, and leads him down the road of finding self-worth, power, responsibility and hope.

"Amanuel's story shows that a hero is not defined by where he/she comes from, or what he/she has accomplished, or his/her (super) abilities. Heroes are defined by the choices they make, their will and desire to do what is right, despite the difficulty of circumstances and irrespective of the recognition they might get," says creator and writer, Beserat Debebe.




Etan Comics' founder Debebe created an entertainment platform for innovative African superhero stories. He, along with line and color artist Stanley Obende, line artist Brian Ibeh, color artists Akanni Akorede and Waliu Edu, and letterer Rebecca Asah, brought Jember to life.





Instead of coming up with a completely fabricated backdrop for his story, Debebe cleverly interweaves Africa's ancient history and mythology. The history of the East African civilization known as the Kingdom of Punt is a big part of the creation of Jember's rich story. We asked Debebe about the artistic decisions he made with Jember, and his mission with Etan Comics:

Our mission with Etan Comics is to entertain, empower, and educate our fans. We hope to entertain our audiences with fresh fantasy stories based on African history and mythology, and set in present day African countries. We want to empower the current and future generation of Africans and challenge them to expand their imagination by showing them we strive to portray superheroes that rise from African cities and stand as the symbol for justice, peace, equality, hope and love for their community and the world. We aim to broaden our readers perspectives about Africa by depicting a narrative that encourages everyone to learn more about the continents rich history, culture, and innovative day to day life.




Available in both Amharic and English translations, you can obtain your own copy Jember here, and immerse yourself in its compelling story.





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  • These Kenyan farmers are going online to help reduce package wasting and escape poverty aand create better business opportunities.
  • Image Credit: Masseka Game Studio The game developer-focused conference Devcom debuted at last year’s Gamescom (one of the largest gaming shows in the world) in Cologne, Germany. It’s back again this month from August 19 to Auguest 23, running presentations on topics like game design and publishing, as well as a show floor. This year it will have more diverse games on display thanks to Paradise game. The Ivory Coast-based company is bringing five developers from all over Africa to demo their work. CEO Sidick Bakayoko started Paradise Game a year-and-a-half ago with the idea of creating “the biggest gaming community in Africa.” It’s approaching this from a couple of different angles, one of which is to support developers from all over the continent. “If we can build that community, then we’ll need to support that community with various types of things. They’ll want games,” said Bakayoko in a phone call with GamesBeat. “You need to be able to provide them, whether it’s international games or local games. That’s what sent us in the direction of, you know what, African game developers, we’re going to try to help you get to an international level. If you improve the kinds of games you do, it’ll be easier for our game community to play those games. They’ll be the kinds of games people like.” In addition to its initiatives to help African developers, it also launched the games festival FEJA ( Festival de l’Electronique et du Jeu video d’Abidjan ), which drew 50,000 attendees and viewers on its livestream in its first year. It will be back again this fall from November 23 to 25. Bakayoko says that Paradise is also trying to provide some education around games. He started the TV program Paradise Game Show, which is about 26 minutes long and airs on a national channel in Ivory Coast every Saturday. It features basic lessons around topics like virtual reality and esports, but it also provides interviews with developers. One of the challenges that African developers face is that the local community doesn’t necessarily see the potential for a career in games. Bakayoko says that you’ll often run into the sentiment that it’s “something for kids,” which makes it hard to get funding and support. “If you build a game, of course you can be a great developer, sit in your house and develop your game, but if you need to do it over a year of time, you need to eat,” said Bakayoko. “You need to either get money from an investor or your game needs to generate revenue so you can live off that and continue, especially if you have to recruit people and so on. So one of the main hurdles is the fact that people don’t understand games, and don’t really want to help or push them. They don’t see the potential.” Another hurdle is the price of consoles and home PCs, which can be expensive. Folks also don’t always have access to electricity and internet, which limits their capability to play games. To that end, Paradise Game is launching its first gaming and e-learning center in Ivory Coast in September. It will be about 1,000 square meters and have around 50 different PCs and consoles for people to use, as well as a large screen for remote learning videos. Bakayoko envisions it as a place where people can learn about games and developers can network or participate in events like Global Game Jam. He’s tapped around 25 local studios to give talks about what projects they’re working on. “When people think about gaming centers, they only think about people coming to sit down and play. Whereas I see it bigger,” said Bakayoko. “I see it more as an area where we take kids that would not have anything to do on the streets, who could be there [instead of] just spending their time doing bad things—you take them and bring them in the center where they can have fun and learn. There’s going to be sessions and all kinds of activities. Getting families, parents and kids, together and trying to learn what game development is about. The important thing is going to be the experience.” Above: Mog Media Design’s Totem is based on African mythology. For Devcom, Bakayoko originally wanted to bring 20 studios but they ended up having to pare back to five. He says that the visa process has fortunately been fairly smooth, which he attributes to their track record of hosting events. The trickier part has been finding the developers to bring with him, because it’s hard to grasp what’s happening in all the different countries on the continent without the help of, for example, a larger organization that oversees everything. “We had to go individually, each country, every time we were going for the festival, every time we were talking to somebody,” said Bakayoko. “Who are the developers? Who’s doing what? Looking online for articles. It’s very difficult, because a lot of them are doing small things in their home towns and they don’t have funds to promote. If you’re not there, you don’t know about it. It took us a long time, about a year. It was an ongoing process to find some of these developers. In our minds, we really needed to make sure we understand and know everyone that’s in the ecosystem if we’re going to make an impact on the entire business.” The developers who will be showcasing at Devcom include Masseka Game Studio from Central African Republic with its digital board game Kissoro Tribal Game; Madagascar’s Studio Lomay, which created the racing game Gazkar; Nigerian studio Mog Media Design with its action platformer Totem; Kenya’s Weza Interactive, which developed the platformer Mzito; and Algerian studio Frontfire, which is developing the narrative beat-’em-up game Onizumu. African cultures infuse many of the games that Paradise are bringing to Devcom, and Bakayoko thinks that’s crucial to success for developers from the continent. “Regardless of whether your games come from Africa or China or anywhere else, the main aspects of gaming, one, is the story compelling? Two, does it get people engaged? And three, are you able to provide the kind of graphics and technical solutions that are in line with the highest standards?” said Bakayoko. “Games coming from Africa can have the same things, but they’ll have something additional because they come from a different culture, something people don’t know about. That’s why, from our perspective, we’re trying to get developers to understand that, you know what, we think that promoting African culture is key.” Paradise Game’s Africa Corner isn’t the first time African countries have made it to Germany. South Africa’s trade association Interactive Entertainment South Africa (IESA) has brought a few of its developers to Gamescom in years past. However, the Ivory Coast doesn’t have an organization like IESA to help boost its local studios or to support Paradise’s mission. Bakayoko secured a partnership that helped him launch the festival and build the gaming centers, but aside from that, everything Paradise does is self-funded. In the next 12 months, Bakayoko is thinking of raising funds. But he also has a lot of other big plans. The first gaming center will open in September. And he wants to build out FEJA even more, bringing international developers, publishers, and other industry folks to Abidjan. “Last year we had people coming in from France. We’re going to try to get people from Japan who are big players, people who are active in the industry, try to get people from the U.S., try to attract people who you normally wouldn’t see in Africa, playing or doing things around gaming,” said Bakayoko. “We think that if we bring them here, they’ll see the potential and help us get the ecosystem to another level.” Paradise Game’s efforts are creating events and spaces in Ivory Coast that will provide local devs with a place to show off their talent as well as grow their knowledge base. As it expands, hopefully it will also convince skeptics as well.
  • Archaeologists in Kenya have discovered a 5,000-year-old cemetery containing at least 580 bodies. Built by Africa’s earliest herders, the ancient cemetery contains virtually no signs of social stratification, pointing to a surprisingly egalitarian society. Eastern Africa’s earliest monumental cemetery—as in, a cemetery containing monuments, such as pillars, cairns, and other landmarks—was built by the region’s first herders some 5,000 years ago, according to new research published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Typically, archaeological sites containing monuments are the product of large, complex societies; it typically takes a lot of people to build large structures that are designed to convey a shared set of beliefs or values. But this monumental cemetery, intentionally built by early pastoralists during the middle Holocene, suggests this isn’t always the case. View of Lothagam North, Kenya. Megaliths, stone circles, and cairns can be seen behind the platform mound. It’s called the Lothagam North Pillar Site, and it’s now the largest and oldest known monumental cemetery in eastern Africa. The communal cemetery was used continuously from about 5,000 years ago to 4,300 years ago by early herders who were living around Lake Turkana in what is now Kenya. This was happening during a time of significant environmental change, as rainfall in the area gradually decreased, and as water levels in the lake began to drop. Team leader Elisabeth A. Hildebrand from Stony Brook University, along with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and several other institutions, explored the site through excavations and ground-penetrating radar. The ancient cemetery included a large stone-encircled platform measuring 100 feet (30 meters) in diameter above a large pit that was used to bury the dead. The pit, or mortuary cavity, was nearly 4,240 cubic feet (120 cubic meters) in size, and it contained at least 580 individuals (it’s possible that more bodies are contained within, as the pit was too deep to fully probe with the ground-penetrating radar). An engraving of a cow-like creature found at the site. “Data from excavations,” write the researchers in the study, “reveal a construction plan that envisioned the platform’s dimensions from the outset. People first removed beach sands from a [1,300-square-foot, or 120-square-meter] area down to sandstone bedrock, creating a large cavity shored up with sandstone slabs. They capped surrounding beach sands with a stone pavement ringed by boulders. Within the cavity, people dug closely spaced burial pits into the soft bedrock.” Corpses were tightly placed into this area in a series of individual burials. The mortuary cavity gradually filled up over the course of several centuries, and it was eventually filled with rubble and capped with stones. Large stone pillars were placed on top from materials sourced well over a kilometer away. Stone circles and cairns were also added nearby. Excavation work done on bodies found within the pit shows that both males and females were buried at the site, ranging from infants through to the elderly. None of the burials exhibited conspicuous signs of hierarchies or social inequalities. The bodies were buried tightly alongside each other, and in an arrangement not suggestive of rank or social status. What’s more, virtually every corpse was associated with some kind of personal adornment, which weren’t restricted to any particular age, sex, or other criteria. “Many individuals had ostrich eggshell or stone beads around the necks, hips, and/or ankles,” write the researchers. “Others had hippo ivory finger rings or forearm bangles. Two burials had disintegrated headpieces with intricate latticed arrangements of mammal incisors...Another individual was buried with 12 perforated hippo tusks that may have been strung together and worn in life.” Stone pendants and earrings from the communal cemetery. In addition, more than 300 “vibrantly colored” stone and mineral beads were found, many of which would have required great time and effort to create. The communal grave, in addition to providing a shared place to inter the dead, was a place to congregate, share information, and renew social ties, the researchers say. Indeed, by building permanent monuments, these early herders were helping to forge a community identity, with the cemetery reminding them of their shared history, ideals, and culture. The presence of this cemetery also means that dispersed, mobile, and egalitarian societies without strong social hierarchies were capable of constructing monuments—a finding that goes against conventional thinking. “This discovery challenges earlier ideas about monumentality,” explained Sawchuk in a statement. “Absent other evidence, Lothagam North provides an example of monumentality that is not demonstrably linked to the emergence of hierarchy, forcing us to consider other narratives of social change.” Those “other narratives,” aren’t immediately obvious, but “additional investigation and careful comparison, to see whether (or how) similar socioeconomic circumstances may have prompted the emergence of monumentality in different parts of the continent,” are now warranted, the researchers write in the study. As a final note, it’s important to point out the limitations of inferring social dynamics through the study of a mass grave, albeit a very organized one with seemingly egalitarian characteristics. The researchers say none of the buried individuals exhibited signs of social stratification, but we can’t know, for example, who was not included in the grave (i.e. there may have been a selectional effect at play here). What’s more, there’s no such thing as a perfectly egalitarian society, as discrepancies in power, influence, and privilege exist along multiple domains, such as sex, age, or other lines of social delineation. The dead don’t speak, so we may never know the ways in which these individuals may have been marginalized or otherwise set apart.