With the increasing use of blockchain technology, African artists are using its advantages to create communities of sellers and promote their creations in a global marketplace.
By Patrick Nelle, Bird Stories Agency
It’s an ordinary day online for a diverse group of African creatives; or at least such an ordinary day since they found a new and exciting way to advance their careers.
Ordinary now includes a daily meetup in the Twitter space for a long chat. 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… six months ago they didn’t even know of each other’s existence. However, today they have a strong community working together to build names and sell their art on NFT marketplaces such as 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) that contains the name of the asset’s owner on the blockchain. This allows the platform on which the NFT was created to track who owns or trades it – a viable solution for artists who do not have a marketplace to derive financial value from the artworks they produce.
“It helps artists secure their work and control their earnings. From there he has access to the international market – in a country like Cameroon, for example. He will be able to have his royalties paid to him in perpetuity. Each time the artwork is resold, the artist has an opportunity to earn a royalty,” stated Frisco D’Anconia aka Kofi Akosah, the President of Africa Blockchain University, an organization promoting the adoption of blockchain technology across Africa encourages.
To capitalize on NFT opportunities, African artists are building communities to support and encourage one another. 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 on NFT marketplaces.
“The Art Support System is a community of artists-turned-friends built on real vibes and love giving artists the support within the blockchain ecosystem,” he said.
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“The recipe is quite simple, it is to engage with each other’s art posts on social media by sharing, liking and commenting. It also consists in the exchange of experiences, he explained further. The ultimate vision is to promote genuine African arts and promote African values on our way to becoming a force on the global stage by making it together without leaving anyone out,” stated 1Jubril.
1Jubril joined the NFT space on February 1st.
“Like everyone, I didn’t know anyone,” he recalled.
He followed a few people and joined spaces hosted by other artists. Although he was never able to meet her in person, he was inspired to start a group focused on the possibilities of NFT art. The space and number of participants grew from discussion to discussion.
“There was massive support. We’ve expanded our reach. On Twitter, you can only have 75 people in the group. I regularly remove inactive people. So the group today is not the initial 75,” he said via Twitter message.
The community has attracted many young artists and has already transformed their careers. Temi OG, a Nigeria-based pencil artist, belongs to the emerging artist group.
“I joined the NFT community in February of this year through a friend on Instagram. I thought NFT was only for digital artists, not traditional artists like me,” she recalls.
She’d tried it before, but didn’t really get it, she confessed. After being introduced to the NFT Twitter community, she began 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 incredible feeling,” she recalls.
The NFT appeal also appeals to people who initially have no artistic background. Based in Port Harcourt, Stanley Ebonine describes himself as an “entrepreneur who sees problems as opportunities to offer solutions”.
Known as Odogwu Stanley on Twitter, Ebonine initiated the CruzMetaNft project. His goal is to demystify NFTs in Africa and help advance African arts and culture both physically and digitally – including in the Metaverse.
“I’m neither an artist nor a photographer,” says the 29-year-old, who has been managing the maritime trading company founded by his father in Port-Harcourt since 2019.
“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 strongly believe that our project can create a globally recognized service promoting African culture and collaborate with talented African artists, innovators, blockchain and smart contract experts,” he continued.
The Art Support System community has been very supportive of the project, Ebonine said. Since the beginning of his NFT journey he has produced 15 NFT artworks 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. Since Twitter only allows 75 people per group, he turns to other apps to scale the community. This is important as interest is growing from Ghana and South Africa, as well as from the rest of the continent.
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Cover photo by Uzunov Rostislav on Pexels