Yonael Marga | Chereka | Ethiopian Fashion

Chereka – in detail

Somewhere, a woman wraps a thin black see-through fabric on the twin buns of a girl seated underneath her feet.

Somewhere in time, an empress extends her hand for a gursha at a banquette.

a spell is cast.

somewhere, a dark reddish paste forms as the chopped tuber of ensosila cooks on a coal stove.

It is with this imagery as backdrops, Chereka was envisioned. Chereka, translating to the moon in Amharic, is a multi-disciplinary series inspired by the myriad cultures and traditions of Ethiopia. This project aims to take aspects from these diverse identities, mix together, and recreate them to fit our contemporary context and our imagination of the future.

The idea was conceived on a research trip to the museum inside the Entoto Mariam Church and Emperor Menelik II’s palace. Our attention was drawn to some of the moon’s motives and symbols in the royal garments’ embroidery, which our tour guide explained to be praise towards the Empress Tayitu. From his explanation, this phrase stuck with us:

“you reflect just like the moon”

“እንደ ጨረቃ ታንፀባርቂያለሽ”

Ethiopia’s diverse and complicated history is like a ball of threads, requiring delicate and careful untwining. For this project, we looked into the different hair and body beautification practices prevalent in Ethiopia: mixing the albaso, one variation of the shuruba from the Northern part of the country, with gutta, a way of fashioning hair with fabric common in Harar.

Here we contrast the elaborate forms and silhouettes of royal attire with the somewhat familiar fabric gabi. The cloaks and gowns of the Ethiopian Royalty were made from imported expensive silk. Ordinary people neither had the means nor access to wear these materials, sticking to shema or cheaper garments to produce their clothes. The embroidery is placed deliberately: heavily inspired by vernacular, church, mosque, and gothic architecture with focus on geometric lines and shapes. These different elements are carefully and intentionally woven to create an entirely distinct and futuristic aesthetic.

Yonael Marga is a fashion brand based in Ethiopia, focusing on custom made design, ready-to-wear, and conceptual and innovative art production. Our brand is rooted in the concept of Afrofuturism, of which we believe Ethio-futurism to be a subset. By using fantasy, storytelling, visual art, graphic, and fashion design, we look into the past, how it interplays with the future and the now through an Ethiopian lens. Ethio-futurism also allows us to fuse different elements that often don’t mix – birthing new perspectives.⁣

The brand is eponymously named after its founder Yonael, who serves as the brand’s Creative Director and is run by Anatoli Bulti, a writer and creative consultant based in Addis Ababa. Together, we work to create a brand beyond cloth making and focused on multi-disciplinary approaches to fashion. Our works are not centered on a single discipline but rather a mélange of different fields. The designs, concepts, the visuals, and the accompanying text coalesce to articulate how we need not look further than within for inspiration. Our multi-culture, our diverse identities and history can serve as portals to the future of our own imaginings.

Chereka 2020

Concept by: Yonael Marga
Written by: Anatoli Bulti
Photography by: Nafkot Gebeyehu
Model: Meti


Instagram – @yonaelmarga
Email – yonaelmarga.brand@gmail.com

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