With the increasing use of blockchain technology, African artists are harnessing its benefits to build 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, a day as ordinary as it has been since they found an exciting new way to advance their careers.
“Ordinary” now involves a daily gathering on Twitter Space for long discussion. The creatives are mostly from Nigeria (Lagos, Enugu, Lekki, Port-Harcourt and other cities), but they rarely, if ever, see each other. Photographers, painters, animators… barely six months ago, they didn’t even know each other. Yet today they have a strong community, working together to create names and sell their art on NFT marketplaces, like OpenSea, Tezos, Foundation and others.
NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. It is a digital asset based on blockchain technology (the same used for cryptocurrencies), which includes the name of the owner of the asset, in the blockchain. This allows the platform on which the NFT was created to know who owns or trades it – a viable solution for artists who do not have a market to create financial value from the artwork that they produce.
“It helps artists secure their work and control their income. He has access to the international market from where he is – in a country like Cameroon, for example. He will be able to get paid his royalty in perpetuity. Each time the artwork is resold, the artist will have the opportunity to earn a royalty,” explained Frisco D’Anconia aka Kofi Akosah, President of Africa Blockchain University, an organization that promotes blockchain adoption. blockchain technology across Africa.
To take advantage of NFT opportunities, African artists are creating communities to support and promote each other. One example is the Art Support System, which emerged when 24-year-old Nigerian photographer “1Jubril” saw an opportunity to promote African artists and artworks in NFT marketplaces.
“The Art Support System is a community of artist-turned-friends built from genuine vibes who love giving artists support within the blockchain ecosystem,” he said.
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“The recipe is quite simple, it involves engaging with art posts on social media by sharing, liking and commenting. It also consists of sharing experiences, he further explained. The ultimate vision is to promote authentic African art and champion African values on the path to becoming a force on the world stage, doing it together without leaving anyone behind,” 1Jubril explained.
1Jubril joined the NFT space on February 1.
“Like everyone else, I didn’t know anyone,” he recalls.
He followed a few people and joined spaces hosted by other artists. Although he never got to meet them in person, he was inspired to create a group focused on the opportunities of NFT art. From conversation to conversation, the space and the number of participants began to grow.
“There was overwhelming support. We have expanded our reach. On Twitter, you can only have 75 people in the group. I periodically delete inactive people. So the group today is not the original 75,” he said via Twitter messaging.
The community has attracted many young artists and has already transformed their careers. Temi OG, a pencil artist based in Nigeria, is part of the group of emerging artists.
“I entered the NFT community in February this year, through a friend on Instagram. I thought NFT was for digital artists, not traditional artists like me,” she recalled.
She had already tried but really did not understand anything, she confessed. After being introduced to the Twitter NFT community, she started connecting 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 recalls.
The NFT appeal also strikes a chord with people who don’t initially have an artistic background. Based in Port Harcourt, Stanley Ebonine describes himself as an “entrepreneur who sees problems as an opportunity to provide solutions”.
Known on Twitter as Odogwu Stanley, Ebonine started the CruzMetaNft project. Its goal is to demystify NFTs in Africa and help energize 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, in 2019, still ran the maritime trading company founded by his father in Port-Harcourt.
“My vision is to create a next generation service via 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 said.
The Art Support System community has been very supportive of the project, Ebonine said. Since the beginning of his NFT journey, he himself has produced 15 pieces of NFT art. He is also a collector and has to date acquired 6 NFT works by African artists.
According to 1Jubril, Art Support System now has over 250 members. Since Twitter only allows 75 people per group, it is turning to other apps to scale the community. This is important as there is growing interest from Ghana and South Africa, as well as the rest of the continent.
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Cover image by Uzunov Rostislav on Pexels