Last November, West Africa’s largest art fair, Art X Lagos, partnered with leading NFT platform SuperRare to host it. Reloading…, one of the first NFT exhibitions for African artists. Featuring artists from Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Senegal and elsewhere, the show has been described by those on the West African scene as a major milestone in drawing international attention to what African digital artists are doing.
Art X Lagos founder Tokini Peterside said the show “brings a lot of freedom and independence to artists and really just opens up their options.” Reuters In that case.
Meanwhile, in March Lagos Center for Contemporary Art held a digital digital workshop on NFTs led by co-founder Tomiwa Lasebikan. Buycoins Africa. A month later, African Digital Art Network launched its NFT marketplace Nandi, as co-founder Chinedu Enekwe told Decrypt:“Build an ecosystem that can help brands and creators get paid””
the buzz around Reloading… and these other initiatives reflect the fact that cryptocurrencies and digital art already have a large presence in Nigeria and Africa. And it’s just growing.
Between July 2020 and June 2021 Africa saw $105.6 billion cryptocurrencies, an increase of approximately 1200 percent compared to the previous year, According to the March report By Blockchain data platform Chainalysis. Meanwhile, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa ranked in the top ten countries for crypto usage.
But despite this seemingly broad crypto adoption, African digital art still has challenges to overcome.
Earlier last year, the Nigerian government banned banks and financial institutions from using cryptocurrencies, causing many Nigerians to empty their crypto wallets in a wave of panic. while in Nigeria announced new rules earlier this month to ease restrictions in more than a dozen African countries there are still full bans – Including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
The bans are hampering the digital arts ecosystems in these countries. Victor Ekwealor, a Nigerian tech journalist, said that while more tech-savvy Nigerians were able to circumvent the ban, it prevented many of them from investing in crypto art in the months that followed.
“Many African artists market their art directly to me because there aren’t enough collectors to buy it,” said Daliso Ngoma, a South African NFT collector and founder of African Technopreneurs.
Similarly, Rodney Asikhia, owner of Tribes Art Africa, A contemporary art gallery in LagosHe observed, “The rate of patronage of NFTs by African artists is relatively low compared to the patronage of works by artists from elsewhere.”
This issue arises because most digital art collectors from African artists are African. And Africa doesn’t have enough net worth investors to collect NFTs at competitive international prices that can sustain the larger ecosystem. Greater global acceptance and patronage of the works of these artists by international collectors will lead to further growth of digital art on the continent.
Another obstacle to the ecosystem is the weak economies of African countries. Printing an NFT can cost anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred, depending on gas fees (the fluctuating transaction fee for crypto transactions) and the platform on which the digital work is printed. However, even just starting your account will cost around $60-70 according to most platforms Boundary. In countries like Nigeria or Kenya, where the minimum wage is around $100-$130 a month, many artists struggle to make enough money to print their work.
Artists like Osinachi, Young Kev, Kevin Kamau and others Recognize that funding artists to print their first NFT will increase participation in the crypto space. Some artists have even undertaken to do this unofficially from person to person and have played their part in making the field of blockchain assets broad and inclusive.
But while artists support each other, Africa’s NFT sector needs an infrastructure comparable to the traditional art world. In this self-sustaining ecosystem, artists make works, gallerists and art dealers market and promote it, and collectors buy it. Meanwhile, arts institutions exist to support, develop and sustain artists while also facilitating the growth and promotion of art. Engaging this high level of organization and functioning in the digital art space will help more interested people, together with experienced players, grow and promote digital art across Africa.
To that end, digital art collector and curator Charles Mbata and artist and entrepreneur Chuma Anagbado are bringing together artists, enthusiasts and cultural figures to create a crypto art community in Nigeria.
One of its initiatives is the Nigerian NFT Society, which organizes programs and fosters collaborations between artists in the field to gain recognition with a wider, more global audience. through a collection like Lagos monkey, the community aimed to highlight African artists creating NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain. They are also organized 3D, a virtual reality exhibition for Nigerian digital creators. A similar exhibition in the coming days to methanoIt will be held in New York, Nairobi and Lagos. Other communities such as the Africa NFT Community, Black NFT Art and Network of African NFT artists have taken on similar roles, helping artists garner more sales, exhibitions and critical participation. These communities also facilitated the distribution of education and information to artists and other creators interested in NFTs.
People have often talked about how the NFT craze was driven by the money, not the quality of the art. This view has validity. it cannot be denied Beeple’s $69.3 million NFT sale At Christie’s and Osinachi’s NFTs Reaching prices of $80,000 It created investment interest for collectors and gold rush prospects for artists.
But there are African creators who are interested in doing serious work with NFTs. Nigerian graphic designer Mayowa Alabi, also known as Shutabug said in an interview said earlier this year that he wanted his digital art to tell a bigger story. Johannesburg-based artistic director Fahtuwani Mukheli believes NFTs are leveling the international playing field and giving African artists access to audiences they would not normally have access to. a Interview with TRT WorldNFTs “us [African artists] It competes completely with everyone in the world at the same time.”
This expanding reach and reach has convinced many African artists and art world professionals that it is therefore important to pay attention to the types of art they are putting out in the world – arts that seriously engage with African reality and identity.
The digital arts ecosystem in Africa could experience further growth if more is done to meet the challenges it is currently facing.
While there are no immediate solutions to difficult country economies or unfavorable crypto laws, we can provide training to broaden understanding of space, develop infrastructure to get on board and diversify collectors, and train artists on how to position their work forever. emerging market, while developing their artistic vision.