BZDRKO: The Enigma
With her unusually calm presence, coupled with a constantly emotionless expression, one would be hard pressed to identify Ayebea Darko as one of the fastest rising creatives in Ghana today just off first impressions.
This young woman has taken the creative scene by storm, establishing herself, and her company, as a force to be reckoned with having already worked with household names such as R2Bees and LA MÈME Gang. She heads a creative agency called BZDRKO that handles the manifestation of ideas from conception to the finished product we eventually see on our screens.
Her field of work ranges from advertising campaigns, to photoshoots and music videos, as her creativity doesn't adhere to any specific bounds. In addition to this, BZDRKO regularly hosts curated 'Living Art' events where guests and participants can immerse themselves in a space that brings them directly into the worlds she conjures under her creative direction, something quite new to the Ghanaian arts scene.
Last year BZDRKO hosted BLKLISTED, a critically acclaimed show announcing her presence on the scene in a big way. This year she seeks to follow it up on an even grander scale with BZLeTrip.
We spoke to her about BZDRKO and her personal style at her studio in East Legon, Accra, Ghana.
So what exactly is ‘BZDRKO’?
*Long Pause* My house.
Your house? (Laughs)
(Laughs in unison) ... BZ is what they used to call me in boarding school in Reading. That’s around the time I started realizing the path I should take in life. The DRKO has no A because I didn’t want them to find my father’s name.
How did that transform into the company that it is today?
I used to have this company called ’Shade’, that sold hair dye. This came from me wanting to have a business by the time I was 20 years old, from my youth. So by the time I was 20, I was like ‘okay, business time’. Down the line I realized I cared more about the promotional and pictorial side of the business than the commerce side of things. Honestly I didn’t really care about the products I was selling. Eventually I was like, ‘maybe I should just do that, and be that’.
Tell us about your experience working with artists in Ghana so far.
Do you want me to be honest? *laughs*
Oh be honest, but also be nice!
So the first artists I worked with were LA MÈME Gang, on their Godzilla video. Creatively it was great having muses that were willing to go outside the Ghanaian conception of what creativity should be.
In terms of business activity, it’s kind of hard because things are not as professional here but hopefully we can change that.
Speak on the creative side a bit more for us?
People always complain that Ghana is ‘behind’, and it’s ‘slow’. But I see that as an opportunity, you know? If the board is dry, then you can show out, without having to go over the top, over your budget and too far outside your comfort zone. Provided you’re doing something different of course.
Creatively, Ghana isn’t there yet but that allows us to take it there. If it was there then we’d all just be swimming in the pond like in Nigeria. Ghana allows people to stand out, and I appreciate that.
What informs your personal style? It seems like a sort of neo-goth vibe, you know?
I actually used to be goth when I was 12, but Ghana wouldn’t allow me, and my mum wouldn’t allow me at the time so I had to suppress that shit.
Also I’ve always leaned more towards street style in my attire. I’ve never liked dresses and all that, I just did it to make those around me feel more comfortable. So I managed to blend the two somehow, because I know nothing about fashion. I just wear what I like, and you can see how that influences the kind of art and scenes I create for my visuals.
Your company is still so young, what kind of support system do you have? parents, friends etc.
Number 1: My mother and my father.
Without them I couldn’t do anything. Not a single thing. My friends are like my family, a support system. Shoutout to The Plastics.
Gang shit, we outchea!
(Laughs) My friends, mentally hold me at a level.
If I don’t have that base, then I can’t do anything either. These two support groups give me a certain level of grounding, both financially and socially to do what I have to do.
What’s your dream for BZDRKO? Where do you see your company in the next 15-20 years?
The King of Ghana.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity