The 2010s saw a rise of technological advances that have become mainstays of global culture, most notably smart devices, movie streaming platforms, and cryptocurrencies. The way we interact with each other and the space that we inhabit is constantly evolving with the biggest change happening in the last decade. The need for social distancing has made wireless transfers and QR codes a necessary part of the status quo. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants now offer a QR code to scan that directs customers to an online menu as opposed to physical menu books most people are accustomed to.
In 2007, Satoshi Nakamoto began coding what we will all come to know as Bitcoin. Satoshi, however, is a pseudonym so we don’t actually know the person(s) behind it. It is a peer-to-peer electronic cash system without a central bank or single administrator. It was created as an alternate payment system that would be free from control but can be used like traditional currencies. Bitcoin is one of the advances that shaped Nigeria’s economic and material culture in recent years. It played a huge role in international donations to the End SARS protests of 2020.
An offshoot of the push for greater ownership of digital assets in an increasingly virtual world is the recent bump in the relevance and demand for NFTs. NFTs or non-fungible tokens are a kind of crypto-asset, that is a digital asset that uses cryptographic techniques to generate a monetary system or a medium of exchange for financial transactions or signify ownership of a virtual item. Other types of crypto-assets are cryptocurrencies, utility coins, and security tokens.
NFTs use the same blockchain technology that powers cryptocurrencies but they are not a currency like Litecoin, Ethereum, or Dogecoin. The special thing about NFTs is that each token is unique — in contrast with Bitcoin and legal tender that are exactly the same amount (i.e. every ₦1000 note is valued at the same amount.)
Between February and March 2021, a 10-second video was sold online for $6.6 million and a collage of 5000 digital artworks were put on a virtual auction block with a starting price of $100 and sold for a whopping $69 million.
Prince Jacon Osinachi Igwe or Osinachi as he is more popularly known is a Nigerian digital artist and non-fungible token creator. He is most notably known for using Microsoft Office as his medium. He launched his own social currency $OSINA. He has been described as “Africa’s foremost crypto artist.” He turned collectors’ eyes to Nigeria with a showcase at the Ethereal Summit in 2018, and his placing as a finalist in 2019’s Bridgeman Studio Award. Earlier this year, he sold three NFTs for the equivalent of $75,000 in just 10 days making him one of Nigeria’s top digital artists, and the most sought-after in spaces where NFTs are used.
On the 15th of September, Don Jazzy announced on his social media account that he would be collaborating with Osinachi on mixed media pieces. On Wednesday, September 29th, it was released on Nifty Gateway. This collection is the first of Osinachi’s collaborative efforts. Together, this duo has created three pieces of digital art that marry Osinachi’s signature style and Don Jazzy’s Afrobeats.
NFTs have raised an interesting question about the ownership of art. Digital art can and has been endlessly copied and downloaded by millions of devices. Even art in museums has digital copies everywhere. This is where the importance of NFTs come into play – they can function as certificates of authenticity or ownership for digital artefacts.