After speaking with Owo Anietie about his journey from selling his first art for ₦10 to donating $500,000 to a dance academy in Ikorodu, we decided to ask five other black NFT artists what their journey was like. ‘now.
Let’s start with a quick explanation
The catchy term for cool kids these days is “mint.”
When people say they’re “minting NFTs,” they mean they’re converting digital files or assets like art or music into cryptographic collections called non-fungible tokens (NFTs). When an artwork or music file is “minted”, it can be exchanged for a cryptocurrency called Ethereum (ETH), which can then be converted into dollars (USD). Thus, NFTs are a type of cryptocurrency for digital media.
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In 2020, NFTs have become popular in Africa and are now the digital hot cake for visual artists. The question is, how do African artists earn with NFTs?
Basically, rather than trading cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in exchange for Ethereum or US dollars, artists are now trading NFTs (real-world digital assets).
Now let’s get into the basics.
“NFTs have helped my financial growth, but as an African artist, accessing money can be difficult”
— Lethabo Huma, 23, South African
I joined the NFT space in 2020 and my first coin sold for $1000. It was the maximum I had asked for my art, so it was great to make the sale.
After that, I had to connect with more buyers. There weren’t many Africans buying art on the platforms, so I had to reach out to a wider audience. To connect with more buyers, I had to join Twitter spaces, but the time difference made it hectic.
When I got it, all of my major work came from the connections I made online. Between 2021 and 2022, my collections have sold for $10,000 to $15,000. One of my favorites so far has been Bloom — a series about my life as a South African woman. In terms of financial transition, NFTs have come a long way personally and for my profession. I went from thinking about how to pay my tuition with my mother to financing it myself. I can afford better tech gadgets for my job, and the best part was finally being able to afford a puppy.
On the other hand, accessing my money as an African artist can be difficult. Converting Rands to USD and then to Ethereum is a stressful process. This has been a huge problem for African artists doing NFTs.
“NFTs are about collaboration and community.”
— Nygilia, 29, African American
I’ve been an artist all my life, but I didn’t pursue my career until I was 24. My work focuses on capturing Afro-futurism and multimedia styles.
When I got my first job, I hadn’t anticipated the mental stress. I missed autonomy outside mainstream capitalism and wanted to get out of it. Eventually I started exploring the possibilities and NFTs seemed like a good option. I joined the space in March 2021. The most confusing part was figuring out crypto and wallets to store my money, so I joined the Clubhouse rooms and watched Youtube videos to get a liking to the community NFT. After that, I had to get to work.
In 2021, my first drop, VividTrack, sold for 0.25 Ethereum ($600) in the first month. After that, I continued to create and build his portfolio. The success of this first piece led me to create my VR style collection, Astro dreamsin 2022. The mix of art and virtual reality made it difficult, but at the same time valuable.
Each piece is [now] selling from 0.1 to 1 ETH, so from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. The hardest part is marketing each piece. Most artists and buyers on NFTs are on Twitter and Discord, so growing a profile organically is the only way to sell.
My only regret with NFTs is that I didn’t invest in NFTs sooner. The financial aspect is excellent, but the best thing is to work with other African artists. NFTs are really about community and collaboration. For Astro Dreams, the collections were produced in collaboration with a Haitian artist.
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“NFTs were a way to get my art known”
— Lolu ix, 23, Nigerian
I express myself through different mediums – oil paint, ink and digital paint. Like all other art mediums, NFT was a way to get my art known and make some money. Personally, I hadn’t done any marketing because I kept telling myself it wasn’t there yet. When I started, I already understood crypto and read a lot about NFTs. The challenge was gas fees and listing my work on the NFT platform. When I entered the space in February 2022, I made my first collection, Echoes from the other side. It’s a collection about personal growth and the emotions we go through to be better versions of ourselves. My favorite piece from the collection is Misty dreams.
A few weeks later, I sold my first piece and this is my only sale so far. I hope I will sell more pieces over time. I’m creating my next collection for 2022, so we’ll see how it goes. Twitter spaces are the best place to talk about a new collection or piece.
“My artwork sold out in 12 hours”
— Oshomah, Nigerian
I’ve been an artist all my life, but there have been intermittent breaks in between. My motivation for joining NFTs was an American graphic designer. He shared his journey with NFTs and spoke extensively about creating digital art until his death. I took it as a signal to test the market in 2021.
When I tried to join, the gas costs. How was a struggling artist supposed to pay bills and manage fees? It didn’t make sense, but I wanted to try. My first piece was a tribute to ancient Nigerian culture. I called him the forgotten story and it sold for 0.5 ETH ($1,000) in 12 hours. It was my sign to continue. Since my first coin in 2021, I have made an estimate of $15,000 from my art and the investments I have made in the NFT market. Growing up, my financial habits stayed the same. The maximum I do is use my earnings to buy NFTs and trade on the platform. Reinvesting in the crypto market has been high risk, however. I lost about $1200 in one week, but learned that the money always comes back.
“Selling a fusion of Japanese manga and African characters took a bit of time”
— Phil, 25, Nigerian
My art is inspired by Japanese manga, but I try to infuse it with African characters and scenes. Joining the NFTs was based on feedback from other artists. I was interested because the platforms offered control to the artist.
Right now I will say that I have made money selling my art as NFTs, more than I have made from making commissions. When I joined in 2021 I released my first collection which was ten pieces and called it The Dibia and the masquerade. My art style was slightly different, which made it harder to market. The collection has been in place for five months and I have focused on interacting and meeting people in the NFT space. So far 20 collectors have bought my editions (limited supply of identical NFTs) sold at 0.05 ETH ($115) and a unique piece (1/1) sold at 0.2 ETH ($500).
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