Born in 1977, Amen Badeg is a self-taught metal sculptor who creates life-size works from metal scraps from all over the city. Amen is the artist behind numerous works of art, including the well-known Zemen Bank bull.
For Amen, the Covid 19 breakout was a turning point, a huge chance, and a happy occasion. Recognizing his skills, talents, and potential was an excellent opportunity. “If Covid did not exist, I would often ponder what would happen to me,” says Amen.
Amen stayed on Zeybe Talks and discussed his journey in fine arts.
Addis Zeybe: Can you tell us about your background and your studies?
I received my TVET diploma in general mechanics. I learned how to mold metal. I have no experience with the fine arts. Five years ago, I thoroughly and mingled with this artwork. My family members work in the metal industry.
Addis Zeybe: What inspired you to pursue a career in metal sculpture?
Since I was little, I've tried to create things using materials like wood, steel, and stones, like everyone else. I forgot about these things when I got older, but when Covid 19 started, I thought about what I could do in this challenging situation. As I had extra time, I decided to start working with metal. Finally, I can put my thoughts into action.
Addis Zeybe: Tell us about your clients?
Most of my clients reside here, such as embassies, ambassadors, not many diasporas, and merchants. I also have clients from Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Czech Republic. The youths cannot buy my works because of the expensive price, but they do appreciate it, so the age range is 30 years and above.
Addis Zeybe: How do you create your sculptures, and how do you make a profit?
I am collecting scraps, trash from rivers, trash, garbage houses, or households. Doing this helps our city to be clean, protecting the environment by reducing air pollution and recycling unwanted materials. What made my work profitable was making these valuable assets. When I am doing my job, what comes foremost to my mind is not how much money I can make; if I put first money my potential will be harnessed through what I do is turning my thoughts into the ground because we can think a lot of things like work with great message or narrative which can alter Ethiopia, Africa as well as at global level.
Addis Zeybe: What is the biggest single deal you ever closed, and what is the average price?
It was two years before my exotic work I got valuable and positive comments from my clients. The price was up to 250,000 birr. It was my first time selling to the French embassy. For instance, if we pick a tortoise sculpture, the minimum price is 22,000 birrs up to 27,000 birrs. But the average is about 50,000 ETB. I had a Camel sculpture valued from 450,000 birr to a half million birr. So far, I have practiced business strategies like exhibitions, personal contacts, and online platforms, and in the future, I am planning an art gallery.
Addis Zeybe: Is the issue of material selection essential for you too?
For instance, I would choose the non-magnetic steels because they are not rust, are the most preferable, and are not available, whereas iron could be corroded.
Addis Zeybe: What is your most exotic sculpture?
I do have a masterpiece at Entoto Park. There is an art gallery, and I have my own work, a giant horse sculpture. If I sold, it would profit from a considerable income. I did not sell it, but I borrowed it from the park. This is one of my great works because it was challenging.
Addis Zeybe: What would you advise someone to become a sculptor?
First and foremost, having money is okay, but you must love pursuing your dreams. If you don't love it, you can go farther but won't stick with it when difficulties arise. I want young people to understand that they can accomplish more if they are determined, focused, and dedicated to what they love. They must be tough and dedicated enough to overcome any obstacles because if they give up trying to thwart situations, they will never be able to achieve their goals.
Addis Zeybe: How Covid 19 impacted your business, and what have you changed?
This time was a turning point, an ample opportunity, and a wonderful moment for me because I bestowed a huge time to myself with concentration and contemplation. It was a great time to discover my skill, talent, and potential. I would ask myself that if Covid did not come out, what would be my destiny?
Addis Zeybe: What are your favorite artworks or artists, and why?
Of course, Ethiopia is home to many excellent artists, but Desta Hagos, a legendary painter, is my favorite. As a woman, she has overcome many obstacles, including the fact that gender communication is extremely difficult in our culture. I am an international admirer of Alexander Calder. He is an American sculptor, although John Lopez, a French metal sculptor, belongs to the same genre. I also admire the work of several brilliant local sculptors like Bekele Mekonnen and Henok Tsegaye.
Addis Zeybe: What is the primary skill one must possess to be a sound sculptor?
You need to be confident enough that I love this work. Should have a sound mindset, Needs interest, passion, Intensive meditation, and concentration rather than thinking to gain money. They also have to be qualified at welding, grinding, and knowing the characteristics of metals, such as their volume and density.
Addis Zeybe: What is your dream project?
My dream project is in the future, I will do more masterpieces and leave a legacy to the next generation.
Addis Zeybe: Are there any inspirational sculptors which fixed your creativity?
I have been attending Henok Tsegaye exhibitions, so he inspired me to exhibit my works. I ask myself why I did not display my works so far.
Addis Zeybe: What defines you from other artists and your work from theirs?
I am confident to create a large-scale sculpture because I did not put being rich first. My concern is how I will come across to the younger generation. Instead of using the same design for all consumers, I prefer to use alternative designs.
Addis Zeybe: What are the risks of expanding your art sculpting business?
I want to expand my business. I will be thrilled if the current employee is on my side and offers me a workstation. You can start an art school when you have a large place. The trading system is encouraging me to put in more hours. Metal sculpture is less well-known in our society.
Due to increased public awareness, hotels have started incorporating metal art into their criteria, representing a significant improvement over the prior situation. Therefore, II would argue that metal sculpture artworks are beginning to take off better than they did.
Thank you very much for having an interview with Addis Zeybe!