Top Image: Osinachi, "Man in a Pool III", 2021
For art lovers in the continent, NFTs are a welcome intrusion, at least before the craze dies down. Admittedly, artists like Osanichi and Allela have sold their art for unprecedented figures. Of course, this was made possible by the availability of NFTs globally once they were minted.
Previously, finding a gallery for contemporary African art was nearly impossible. There were even far fewer opportunities for digital artists, such as Osinachi, who relied on social media platforms to make money. He confessed that he had to get a formal librarian job to survive.
Some African governments view Crypto with suspicion, including Nigeria, even though the country ranks third globally in crypto exchange usage. This is despite the fact that the government banned crypto trading earlier this year. The ban made it difficult to trade and make money off of NFT. That said, the artists still found ways to create NFTs.
One of the ways many African artists make money is through selling traditional art to tourists, mainly from North America, Europe, or Oceania. But like almost everything else this year, African traditional art sales dwindled with the rise of Covid cases, tourism bans, and generally less business travel. Without these foreign dollars, the artist's struggles persist.
However, unlike traditional art, minting an NFT is as easy as pressing a few buttons on a PC or smartphone. Artists get more exposure through dedicated NFTs marketplace such as Superrare, Openseas, and fine arts platforms such as Sotheby's and Christie's setting up auctions for African contemporary art. It became easier for those foreign currency to enter the African market.
For these artists, not only are they paid through exposure, but they are also selling their pieces of art for up to six figures.
NFTs are young and vibrant, just like the African population, which represents harmonious existence. African art as a form of expression will exist digitally and thrive artistically in the coming years. Over the years, Africans have contributed immensely to global art sales; more middle-class and affluent Africans purchase contemporary art from Africans.
The younger generation that sees crypto as an investment and NFT as a branch in the bigger digital utopia tree are glad to invest in art. It's not clear what type of NFTs are popular with this generation, but judging by the large social media following these artists have, it is safe to say digital art is part of the entourage.
African art has always moved en masse; a renaissance of sorts will herald a new decade of a digitally inspired and easily accessible art form as an investment or a collector's item. And the artists who've joined the NFT movement feel proud to write a beautiful story with their art and pioneering enthusiasm.
When African art pushes further, digital inclusion has a critical role to play.