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If you have ever stumbled upon an illustration that is relatable, comical, captivating, and Ethiopian while scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed, the chances are that Behagerlij was behind it.

For the Ethiopian youth who grew up watching Hollywood movies, finding the content they can relate to locally is hard. The current generation wants content creators that tell Ethiopian stories through our culture, legacy, struggle, and hope. And Behagerlij is here to do just that.

Behagerlij is a multi-faceted design and art studio with a strong reputation for making industry-standard, visually charged, story-driven Ethiopian content.

Behagerlij was founded in 2019 with an initial capital of 25,000 ETB by three architecture graduates and one graduate in electrical and computer engineering.

In 2016, while in college, friends got together to create their first fully colored storybook that teaches kids’ Ethiopian Proverbs in a fun way. Using skill sets at their disposal, the founders started working on projects focusing on different outlets and platforms, some on printed media, some digital, and some running on phones.

After the founders graduated, Behagerlij went full force and has been working at full capacity for the past four and a half years. Behagerlij has had its hands on books for kids, animations, branding, graphic design, illustrations, holiday postcards, logo and character design, 3D development, app and web design, interior design, and wearable design.

“Till this day, we believe going digital is quite fitting to grab the attention of the ‘digital generation’ at large,” Nahom Abiy, co-founder of Behagerlij, tells Shega.

Behagerlij has a wide reach on multiple fronts: a consumer base interested in the products and a list of companies and individuals seeking design and advertising expertise.

Behagerlij clients include Ebs TV, Nahoo TV, The British Council, Enat Bank, St. Paul Hospital, Arsho Medical Laboratories, Goethe Institute, iceAddis, and many more.

“The trigger was the huge gap we saw in how local content was being delivered and the lack of appealing visual content that is fitting and laced with a strong sense of identity. We believed it was time to do something about it. We’ve got the skill sets and the drive. If not us, then who, right? That is why we set out to bridge the gap and win the eyes, minds, and hearts of our countrymen to educate, entertain and inspire,” says co-founder Minase Terefe.

In 2021, Behagerlij’s short animated film “Endegena” won Best Animation at the Focus on Ability Short Film Festival. The project was purely a passion project aimed at testing and pushing what they could do. They didn’t even hope, let alone plan, for an award. After it was finished and put out, people noticed and recommended it for the award, which was a happy outcome.

Though Behagerlij has positioned itself as an industry leader, it’s not the pioneer. The first animated video with an Ethiopian character, Sinzero, was released over two decades ago. But, for many years after, there were scarcely any releases with a local touch and tone.

However, in the last five years, there has been a renewed interest in seeing artwork with ethiocentric themes and characters. Qene Games, an Ethiopian game development studio, and Etan Comics, an entertainment platform dedicated to providing African superhero stories, are some of the notable names in the local digital art scene.

On multiple occasions, Behagerlij, in partnership with Awaqi, has worked on stories that revolve around uplifting and inspirational stories.

Awaqi is a youth-centered digital mindset and soft skills training platform, which will also serve as a guidance and coaching hub. Most, if not all of the pieces Behagerlij delivered for Awaqi, be it static or animated, usually go for the hook that makes the viewer question and contemplate.

 

“In a way, inspiration is in each story we bring forward. Of course, it is not done for the sole purpose of it, but inspiration is there as an underlying layer,” Ermias Assefa, co-founder of Behagerlij, told Shega.

Many youngsters and companies in Addis buy wearables draped with inspirational, expressive, humorous, and national concepts by Behagerlij. Printed by Feka Printing, the price ranges from 1500–2000 birr for hoodies, 400–700 birr for t-shirts, and 1200–1500 birr for caps.

Behagerlij has developed ten websites and two games so far. Ahun, Ge’ez Legna, Lomi, and 8085 are some of the applications Behagerlij has worked on.

“We usually get positive feedback. People are enthusiastic about the stories we tell and the manner in which we present them,” Ermias added.

Behagerlij wants their work to fire up people’s curiosity and inform them about something of value, entertain and inspire them to dream big, do more and be more.

“There is always room for improvement, of course, but the industry is promising. We are seeing more and more creatives joining the scene, wearing unique and interesting lenses. A few sparks are popping up here and there from time to time. And that is exactly what the industry needs. The hope is that these will get enough momentum to propel us into something grand, “says Ephrem Terefe, co-founder of Behagerlij.

The founders have the vision to push Behagerlij far and wide. They want the name to mean character, consistency, and quality. “We want the name to define what it means to see within. We want it to be an incubation domain for locally tailored excellence,” added Ephrem.

The founders have hopeful counsel for youngsters who want to follow through with their steps.

“We love what we do here. It may have been a rough road in a relatively new field, but it is still the best thing we did. Paving a way is always difficult, but with all the stuff we went through, we still get so much fulfillment out of it, and we found that it can be done. It will be done,” the team told Shega.

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1 Comment

  • Tizi Tklu, September 24, 2022 @ 3:15 pm

    That is wonderful 👏👏👏

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