The NFT (non-fungible token) craze that has taken hold of the globe is similarly making its way through Africa. At the sixth edition of ART X Lagos (through November 7), the premier Nigerian contemporary art fair that has quickly become one of Africa’s foremost marketplaces for the sale of modern and contemporary art, a new section could be found: one dedicated to NFTs by African artists. Displayed as a series of digital artworks, “Reloading…” showcased works available to purchase via an NFT auction done in partnership with NFT marketplace SuperRare through November 21.
The auction was co-curated by none other than Osinachi, one of Africa’s most in-demand crypto artists, alongside Maurice Chapot and Ayo Lawson.
Over the last few months, Osinachi has been riding the NFT wave (as it is becoming known), even going so far as developing his own cryptocurrency. In April his work Becoming Sochukwuma, depicting a black dancer wrapped in a tutu made of African fabric with dreadlocks tied in a bun and turning on a computer screen, sold for $80,000, thus signaling the growth of the digital art market in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, also known for its burgeoning tech scene and large collector base. This October, Christie’s and 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair joined forces to present the auction “Different Shades of Water” featuring an NFT series by Osinachi. The works sold in the range of $34,425 to $68,850.
Now, in the capital of his country, Osinachi is pushing the NFT envelope further through “Reloading…” NFT artists presented include Linda Dounia, Rendani Nemakhavhani, Youssef El Idrissi, Nyahan Tachie-Menson, and Niyi Okeowo. They hail from across from the African continent and its diaspora, including Senegal, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, and Morocco, illustrating the breadth of the NFT revolution and the wave that it is making through the continent and beyond.
“With the unprecedented rise of non-fungible tokens, the digital art market is entering a brand new era, and ART X Lagos is determined to support this digital revolution, especially one that can be such an empowering tool for African artists,” founder and director of ART X Lagos Tokini Peterside said in a statement. “While art videos, GIFs, jpgs, or mp4 files were almost impossible to monetize a few years ago, blockchain is now providing digital artists with an opportunity to sell their work. This paradigm shift opens up the possibility of a more decentralized and more collaborative economy, where creators can lead the way towards a more inclusive and more diverse society.”
The fair made participating in the auction a financially risk-free enterprise and covered all cost for the digital artists, including minting and production costs for the works to be sold.
Sales thus far include Standard Blues by Moonsundiamond, which sold for 2.75ETH (cryptocurrency Ethereum) or $12, 400 — an artist record, selling on the first day of the auction; Napoleon No Go Pass Dis One by Arclight for 2.2ETH or $9,900; Indigo Child by Niyi Okeowo for 1.2ETH or $5,400 — another artist record; A Sense Of Wonder by MDD for 1ETH or $4,500; Twin Flame by Idris Veitch for 1.2 ETH or $5,734; and My Body Remembers by Linda Dounia for 1ETH or $4,500.
Each artwork has a reserve of 1ETH. Once this reserve is met, there is a twenty-four-hour auction in which bidders can outbid each other. The highest bid after this twenty-four-hour period gets the work.
“I think NFTs are the future of art,” said collector and financier Eric Idiahi, also chairman of Lagos-based financial services firm Tangerine Africa, who has purchased several NFTs in “Reloading…” “Nigerians are quite tech savvy. We have some great Nigerian NFT artists coming up like Osinachi, among others.”
Nigeria is also a global leader when it comes to cryptocurrency trading. “That’s why many Nigerians are now buying NFTs,” added Idiahi, who says he began buying NFTs one year ago. “I am a big art collector and I felt I needed to start collecting on the digital side too.”
Nigerian artist Niyi Okeowo was able to list with SuperRare after he had a record sale. This was his first appearance on the platform. In March, the multidisciplinary art director and photographer created a digital painting after Daft Punk, the French music duo, announced their split. He posted the work on his twitter account, and it sold for 1 ETH or $1,900.
Ghanaian Nyahan Tachie-Menson, on the other hand, is a newcomer to NFTS and was able to mint her first NFT with the support of ART X Lagos.
“I got into NFTs through the fair,” said Tachie-Menson. “When I got the opportunity to do this project, I had no in-depth prior knowledge of NFTs and what it means to mint a work. I learned a lot about the process, and I didn’t think I had anything to lose by trying.”
Tachie-Menson’s NFT was a 3-D rendering of her sculptural works. “I work in clay and wood and other materials. I sculpted different pieces in clay, collaged them together and then created this 3-D rendering that was made by Kwabs, a colleague of mine, and then I did the color grading.”
The trajectories of both Okeowo and Tachie-Menson demonstrate how artists throughout Africa and the diaspora, like other parts of the world, are being drawn to experiment with the new, sometime lucrative, digital medium of NFTs. ART X Lagos, an incubator for art and culture throughout African and beyond, has proved it is equally engaged in the art world’s rapidly growing digital realm, which many argue, including top Nigerian collectors, is here to stay and grow.