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Culture and Arts

A Growing Number of African Creatives are Using NFTs to Promote Their Work Globally

By Patrick Nelle for 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, and animators. They didn’t even know each other existed six months ago. 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.

Photo Credit: Temi OG

“Anytime the piece of art is resold, the artist will have the opportunity to earn a royalty,” said Frisco D’Anconia, a.k.a. Kofi Akosah, president of Africa Blockchain University, an organisation that promotes the adoption of blockchain technology 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.

“The art support system is a community of artists-turned-friends, built out of genuine vibes and love to give artists support within the blockchain ecosystem,” he said. “The ultimate vision is to promote authentic African art and champion African values on the path to becoming a force on the global stage, making it together without leaving anyone out,” Jubril explained.

1Jubril entered the NFT market 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 a 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.

Photo Credit: Temi OG

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 recalled.

The NFT appeal is also striking a chord with people who initially don’t have an artistic background. Based in Port Harcourt, Stanley Ebonine designates himself as 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.

Photo Credit: Temi OG

“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 artists, creators, innovators, blockchain and smart contract experts,” he further detailed.

Ebonine said that the Art Support System community has been very supportive of the project. Since starting his NFT journey, he has produced 15 NFT art pieces by himself. He is also a collector and has so far acquired six NFT artworks by African artists.

According to 1Jubril, the 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.

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