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The Inspiration Behind JEMBER’s Superhero Costume

When we started designing JEMBER’s costume, our goal was to make sure it was authentically Ethiopian, relatable, and meaningful to the storyline. The best way to do that was to merge traditional Ethiopian designs with the simplistic style of popular superheroes. The challenge was in maintaining the balance between the two. 

On one hand, incorporating too much traditional elements made JEMBER unrelatable to a non-Ethiopian audience. On the other, too much similarity with other superheroes made him obscure. Therefore, we embarked on a massive research, brainstorms ideas and finalized a design that met these requirements.

Here are a few of the details in his suit:

Ethiopian “Tilet” Patterns

“Tilet” is an embroidery pattern unique to Ethiopia and Eritrea. It’s popular and often used by various tribes in both countries. Tilet patterns can be woven into both male and female cloths. It is usually treated like the icing on the cake, with the cake being a dress, shirt, pant, etc…. It decorates and gives each attire elegance. In JEMBER’s costume, this embroidery pattern is the green pattern that travel down the center of his shirt, across his waist and shoulders.

Photo Credit: Yefikir Design
Photo Credit: @tilefclothingusa

Karo Tribe Face Paint

In most comic book universes, only a few heroes own up to their superhero status. Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, is one of these heroes. The rest often wear a mask to protect their identity.  JEMBER falls in the latter category. However, instead of giving JEMBER the customary face mask, we gave him something more familiar to Ethiopian tradition: face paint. 

His face paint was inspired by the famous body paintings of the Karo, or Kara, tribe in Ethiopia. The Karo tribe live along the borders of the Lower Omo River. They paint themselves daily with different types of clay, chalk or minerals. The paintings can hold different meanings such as status, beauty or bravery.

Photo Credit - Einat Klein |

Amharic Alphabet

JEMBER’s logo is another detail in his costume that incorporates a unique Ethiopian element. It is inspired by a letter from the Amharic alphabet. Amharic is the official or working language of Ethiopia. So, can you guess which letter inspired JEMBER’s logo?

It is the letter , pronounced “Tse” and taken from the Amharic word “Tsehay.” Tsehay means sun. There is also another way to say sun in Amharic, JEMBER.  What does the sun have to do with JEMBER, you ask. The answer lies in JEMBER Issue #1 and 2.

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