With the growing use of blockchain technology, African artists are harnessing its benefits to create communities of sellers and boost their creations in a global marketplace.
By Patrick Nelle, bird Story Agency
It’s an ordinary day on the web for a diverse group of African creatives; or at least, as ordinary a day as it has been since they found a new and exciting way to advance their careers.
“Ordinary” now involves a daily gathering on Twitter Space for a long chat. The creatives mostly come from Nigeria (Lagos, Enugu, Lekki, Port-Harcourt, and other cities), but they rarely, if ever, see one another. Photographers, painters, animators… just six months ago they didn’t even know of each other’s existence. Yet, today, they have a strong community, working together to build names and sell their art on NFT marketplaces, like OpenSea, Tezos, Foundation, and others.
NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. It’s a digital asset based on blockchain technology (the same that is used for cryptocurrencies), that includes the name of the owner of the asset, in the blockchain. This allows the platform on which the NFT was created to keep track of who is holding it or trading it – a viable solution for artists who lack a marketplace to create financial value from the artwork they produce.
“It helps artists to secure their work and control their revenue. He has access to the international market from where he is – in a country like Cameroon, for example. He will be able to get his royalty paid to him in perpetuity. Anytime the piece of art is resold, the artist will have an opportunity to earn a royalty”, explained Frisco D’Anconia a.k.a Kofi Akosah, the president of Africa Blockchain University, an organisation which promotes blockchain technology adoption across Africa.
To leverage NFT opportunities, African artists are building communities to provide mutual support and promote each other. An example is the Art Support System, which came about when 24-year-old Nigerian photographer “1Jubril” saw an opportunity to promote African artists and artwork on NFT marketplaces.
“Art support system is a community of artists-turned-friends, built out of genuine vibes and love to give artists the support within the blockchain ecosystem,” he said.
“The recipe is quite simple, it consists in engaging each other with art posts on social media by sharing, liking and commenting. It also consists in experience-sharing, he further explained. The ultimate vision is to promote genuine African art and to champion African values on the road to becoming a force on the global stage, making it together without leaving anyone out,” 1Jubril explained.
1Jubril joined the NFT space on February 1.
“Like anyone, I didn’t know anybody”, he recalled.
He followed a few people and joined spaces hosted by other artists. While he never got to meet them in person, he was inspired to create a group focusing on the opportunities for NFT art. From conversation to conversation, the space and the number of participants started to grow.
“There’s been massive support. We’ve been expanding our reach. On Twitter, you can only have 75 people in the group. I periodically remove inactive people. So the group today is not the initial 75,” he said via Twitter messaging.
The community attracted many young artists and has already been transformative for their careers. Temi OG, a pencil artist based in Nigeria, is among the group of emerging artists.
“I got into the NFT community in February this year, through a friend on Instagram. I thought that NFT was only for digital artists, not for traditional artists like myself”, she recalled.
She had tried it before but didn’t really understand anything about it, she confessed. After being introduced to the NFT Twitter community, she started to connect with people and quickly learned how to navigate the NFT universe.
“It actually took me two months to make my first sale, which was an amazing feeling,” she remembered.
The NFT appeal is also striking a chord in people who initially don’t have an artistic background. Based in Port Harcourt, Stanley Ebonine designates himself an “entrepreneur who sees problems as an opportunity to provide solutions”.
Known on Twitter as Odogwu Stanley, Ebonine initiated the CruzMetaNft project. His goal is to demystify NFTs in Africa and help to boost African arts and culture, both physically and digitally – including in the Metaverse.
“I am neither an artist nor a photographer”, said the 29-year-old who as of 2019 was still running the maritime business company founded by his father in Port-Harcourt.
“My vision is to create a next-generation service through an NFT Blockchain to give our community and the rest of the world an equal chance to see African culture like never before. We sincerely believe that our project can create a globally-accepted service in promoting African culture, and collaborate with talented African artist creators, innovators, blockchain and smart contract experts,” he further detailed.
The Art Support System community has been very supportive of the project, Ebonine said. Since starting his NFT journey, he has produced 15 NFT art pieces, himself. He is also a collector and has so far acquired 6 NFT artworks from African artists.
According to 1Jubril, Art Support System now has over 250 members. As Twitter allows only 75 people per group, he is turning to other apps to scale the community. That is important as there is growing interest from Ghana and South Africa, as well as from the rest of the continent.
Cover image by Uzunov Rostislav on Pexels