Photo Credit: Alexander Sanchez

5 Artists Leading Nigeria's NFT Scene

With the potential to get much bigger in Africa, here are the artists among the vanguard of Nigeria’s burgeoning NFT space.

Global conversations about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are unavoidable these days. And Nigeria is at the forefront, leading these convos. After hosting a digital-only exhibition last year, Art X Lagos returned in 2021 with a hybrid in-person and online showcase. . As West Africa’s leading international art fair, this was its sixth outing and along came the exhibition’s first NFT experience, Reloading, which was a partnership with SuperRare, an NFT marketplace invested in the curation and sales of digital artworks.

This partnership underscores how NFT innovation has shaken up the art world and redefined the creative economy. Digital art has landed a front row of visibility thanks to NFTs. To understand how NFTs work, a basic understanding of blockchain has to suffice. Blockchain technology operates as a ledger that makes digital transactions visible and accessible to the public. Through secure encryption, this information is grouped into blocks, and each block comprises a timestamp and transaction data.

Popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are designed with this blockchain functionality. NFTs make use of this innovation but issues a digital certificate of ownership to buyers to show authentication of what has been bought. Digitally, one can buy videos, gifs, images, illustrations and other collectibles.

Much acclaim has trailed digital artist Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, whose NFT artwork sold for $69 million early this year. While critics have posed observations about this emerging phenomenon — divided on whether this could be the end of “real” art and the environmental dangers of minting of NFTs — one thing is clear for both digital and traditional artists: NFTs are here to stay, providing artists with more options and a decentralized model that bypasses gallery middlemen.

With the potential to get much bigger in Africa, here are the artists among the vanguard of Nigeria’s burgeoning NFT space.

Osinachi

Arguably the most recognizable figure at the intersection of digital art and non fungible tokens, Osinachi is the poster child of a technological awakening paving the way for African artists to be independent. Born Prince Jacon Osinachi Igwe, the 29-year-old artist’s foray into the cryptoart scene shouldn’t be flattened as an overnight success. At an early age, the self-taught artist took an interest in computers which led him to Microsoft Word, a software application which he has mastered over time and sticks with to this day.

Creating his first crypto art in 2017, his signature style employs neon colors juxtaposed against dark skin tones. Often revolving around a male subject, it altogether sums up as pop surrealism excavating the human experience.

In 2018, Osinachi became the first Nigerian to showcase his work at New York’s Ethereal blockchain summit and he was a finalist for the Bridgeman Studio Award the following year. His pre-pandemic grasping of NFT minting knowledge afforded him a leverage to sell his artwork in the cryptosphere. In the midst of physical galleries closing business due to COVID-19, Osinachi began to negotiate transactions on SuperRare. "Mirror Mirror" and "Am I Pretty?" are just some of the pieces sold there, going for 9ETH ($38, 437) and 13.2ETH ($56,375) respectively.

His pieces have done so well in the crypto art market that he's become the first African artist to show a NFT series at Christie’s, a foremost auction house in London.

Anthony Azekwoh

A good portion of people first saw Anthony Azekwoh’s artwork circulating on Twitter this year. Particularly, there was a portrait of a looming man with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. The piece, titled "The Red Man," would later be sold on the NFT platform Charged Particles, marking Anthony’s entry point into the metaverse. The 21-year-old digital artist had always been art-inclined. As an undergraduate at Covenant University in Ota, he would articulated his thoughts as a writer on Medium, then shift to sketching on A4 paper and painting on Photoshop. Anthony has also designed album covers for Nigerian artistes like Adekunle Gold, Blaqbonez and ShowDemCamp.


After Anthony fell into the rabbit hole of crypto art, he decided to use a portion of his NFTs earnings to help young, emerging artists with a fund that pledges 200, 000 naira.

Odion Tobi

As a teenager, Odion would tinker around with Photoshop, acquiring rudimentary skills. In 2016, he won $500 from a design competition put together by African Voices, making him the first African artist commissioned to create the company’s official second logo.

Now 25, his strength lies in his deployment of 3D animation, illustration, branding, and motion graphics. Because his work heavily centers 3D, he uses software like Cinema 4D, Blender, Zbrush, Adobe Suites.

In his catalogue, he has touched on themes of love, technology and African cosmology and heritage. Some of his digital artworks were recently shown at the Coin Geek conference in New York City.

Oyindamola Oyekemi Oyewumi

Creating portraits using ballpoint pens, 24-year-old Oyindamola was swept into the NFT windfall when she tweeted her drawing of Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson back in March. Hoskinson noticed the tweet and helped her put it up for sale. At the end of the month, it was sold for $6,300. Since then, Oyindamola has been attempting to cultivate a NFT footprint by minting other works on Mintable. The artist has been honing her skills since completing National Service, churning monotone and coloured artworks that often depict women and children.

Oyindamola delved into ballpoint pen drawing professionally in 2018, but she has been drawn to this artistic medium at a much younger age. A trip to her Instagram welcomes people to a grid layout of Marilyn Monroe, drawn by herself. With the NFT wave here to stay, Oyindamola represents a promising stake for Nigerian female artists in this paradigm shift.

Niyi Okeowo

After creating a digital painting of French music duo Daft Punk in the wake of their split and selling it for 1 ETH ($1,900) on the cryptoart platform Rarible, multidisciplinary creative Niyi Okeowo enlisted with SuperRare to push other digital creations. These moments heralded his showcase at this year’s Art X Lagos. With a creative career that juggles graphic design, photography, 3D animation, and art direction, Niyi riding on the NFT wave only appears as a natural progression.

In 2018, Niyi embarked on an ongoing collection of visuals titled Hello Mr Colour, exploring themes of afrofuturism, isolation, anxiety, exploration and geometric structures, all found on an Instagram repository. With a client list that ranges from Facebook, LVMH to Garmspot, Niyi’s is rewriting the Nigerian experience through his unique creative lens.

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