June 10, 2023

Renowned Film Director Yonas Berhane Detained after Gumma Awards for Political Message on Red Carpet

Creative ArtsNewsCurrent Affairs

Commentators believe that the controversial makeup by the social media influencer has triggered the arrest

Avatar: Ilyas Kifle
By Ilyas Kifle

Ilyas is a reporter at Addis Zeybe experienced in creative writing and content production.

 Renowned Film Director Yonas Berhane Detained after Gumma Awards for Political Message on Red Carpet

Yonas Berhane, a highly acclaimed film director and organizer of the Gumma Awards, was detained during last night's event held at the Skylight Ethiopia Hotel.

Eyewitnesses reported that Yonas and his wife were apprehended by plainclothes security personnel around 11:00 pm after the event's closure. While his wife was later released, Yonas is currently being held at a nearby police station in the Bole sub-city, close to Anbasa Garage in Addis Ababa.

According to sources at the scene and other reliable accounts shared with Addis Zeybe, the organizers were asked to bring Filagot Abraham, popularly known as "Lij Magna," a TikToker responsible for the makeup artistry featured in yesterday's program. The arrest may be linked to the makeup design showcased by Lij Magna.

Lij Magna's makeup portrayed a gunshot wound in the center of the forehead and a stitched mouth, complementing her dinner dress adorned with silver embroidery and a jano—a traditional Ethiopian clothing item made from cotton—featuring the Ethiopian flag inside. Her message attempts to convey various interpretations, opposing ethnically motivated killings targeting civilians, especially people from the Amhara region, denouncing forced disappearances, and advocating for freedom of speech.

Opinions regarding Lij Magna's message differ within the online community. While some individuals perceive her appearance as a reflection of the current state of Ethiopia, others view it as an act of self-promotion. Most people praised her courage and interpreted her style as "an astounding display of the creative power of art." Her picture has gone viral on Ethiopian social media platforms.

This is not the first instance where political and social issues have surfaced at the annual Gumma Awards ceremony. Two years ago, Isayas Tadesse, a film director who had won the award for the best short film of the year, spoke out against the conflict in Tigray. He expressed his inability to feel joy and pride while his mother suffered and his siblings faced unspeakable atrocities. Isayas wished for peace in Tigrigna, his native language.

In 2022, social media influencer Betelhem Akalework used her platform to highlight her stance against the mistreatment of women. She conveyed powerful messages such as "Beka" (meaning "it is enough"), addressing issues related to rape cases and the judicial handling of these matters, using her skin as a canvas.

Yonas Berhane, the son of the former president of the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce, Berhane Mewa, and the owner of Ethio Films Production, established the Gumma Film Awards in 2014. The awards recognize outstanding achievements and contributions to the Ethiopian film industry, determined by professionals. This year's Gumma Film Awards honored 24 artists across various film industry sectors.