Young, confident and generous, Edem Badu is a picture of what determination looks like. A self-taught visual Artist, Graphic Designer and an Entrepreneur, she is a model that is paving the way for those with a dream.
“Understanding and reminding myself that I am exactly where I need to be at this time.”
Born Edem Adzoa Badu in Accra, Ghana, her family moved to New Zealand and eventually entered Australia in 1996 after her father secured employment in Melbourne. The family became Australian Residents in 1999.
Growing up, she did not only struggle with regular teen issues but the idea of displacement also played a significant role in her life. It took her a while - almost four years - to settle into Australia, a place that she now calls home.
Badu is a grounded woman whose heritage is firmly rooted in Africa. “We were always brought up to know and understand where we were from” she tells me in our electronic conversation. This lesson, however, took her a while to digest as she spent a lot of time away from Ghana.
The gratitude for her parents’ sacrifices is beyond words. She can appreciate that it was not easy at the time, but steering them (Badu and her siblings) in the right direction through good education as well as instilling in them the importance of working smart as opposed to working hard while they enjoy what they are doing has definitely contributed to making her the person she is today. In her experience, she believes that it is important to take the bad with the good in order to thrive in balancing life choices.
Badu is optimistic and believes that as a nation, Australia continues to embrace the concept of multiculturalism and what it is perceived to stand for according to the Australia’s Multicultural Policy, saying “there are more and more encouraging and empowering platforms for people of Afrikan descent.”
Whatever capacity she engages in, Badu would like her legacy to tell of “The time where I was not afraid to take risks.”
As an outlet to combat her displacement issues, Badu began to create art. Although she did not receive formal training in this field, her compositions are resolved and depict her narrative immaculately. “My art is definitely influenced by my roots” (AfroElle Magazine, 2013), this is particularly evident in her recurring portrait of an African woman. Badu says in the beginning they (African woman portraits) were just images that she subconsciously gravitated towards when she picked up her brush but as the interest in her ‘stumbled upon’ subject matter grew, she found a device that continues to help her navigate her soul in order to gain a deeper understating about herself.
One of her prominent pieces is the lyrical work ‘Exposed-take me as I am’ that doubles as a profile on her website. In my opinion, this piece is a powerful invitation into a personal space. It encapsulates a layer of vulnerability that each of us embody at any given time. It transcends social constructs that classify who one might or might not be based on their gender, class and race. Yes she says ‘I am black’ in the work but how many shades of black does the society tell us of?
When asked to weigh in on the issue of African imagery, particularly in her work being understood as ‘exotic other’, Badu is not deterred by this response. In fact she chooses to see this as a compliment but also finds it inspiring when the viewer manages to go past the ‘exotic’ imagery in order to engage with the piece on a deeper and more meaningful level. Her positive response is largely influenced by the fact that as an artist she knows that one cannot control the audiences’ perception of her work. She says the important thing is to illustrate her subject matter to the best of her ability.
Beyond creating art, Badu is also a practicing Graphic Designer who extends her creative and innovative abilities to her clients. In a Q&A with The Skin I’m In (2013) Badu says, “Feeling heavily controlled and ‘stuck’ in my career … was starting to break my spirit,” and this consequently lead her to become an independent Graphic Designer as well as an entrepreneur.
Her business, Vintage Muse comprises Afrikan Wraps and skin care products (100% Pure Shea Butter and Afrikan Black Soap). Through this business, Badu not only contributes positively to the Australian economy but challenges the stereotype that is mainstream Australia who deem the African migrant community members as “homogenous and not active and contributing members of the Australian society” (Wayne Reiner, 2010 in Utkovic, 2013).
As a role model and inspiration to women from all walks of life, Badu reiterates that when we begin to focus on our passion, we can all achieve our set goals.
It is said that history makes us who we are, thus by introducing Australia to these wonderful African products as well as her African inspired art, Badu acknowledges that her roots will forever remain within her despite where she is in the world.
More about Edem here
More about Vintage Muse here