From cartoon cats to tweets, sales of NFTs surged to $25 billion last year as the crypto asset gained popularity. For the first time ever, enormous amounts of money are being traded on intangible tokens that exist only in the digital realm. Artists of African origin are ever so keen to tap into the world of NFTs. Although the growing popularity of NFTs has puzzled many, it has opened the doors for artists and creators from Africa to sell their pieces to a global audience, without having to worry about a middleman taking his slice of the pie. QkweQkwe, the first NFT marketplace for contemporary African art, will be opening its virtual doors to African artists on 22 February. Says Anna Ogutogullari, founder of QkweQkwe, “NFTs are not only revolutionary but evolutionary, allowing artists – African artists and creatives – the ability to earn and continue earning from their work. QkweQkwe marketplace and metaverse aims to be a platform where we bridge the divide between the physical and digital. It is also a space where we bridge the gap in the digital divide that Africans face. It is a platform where collectors in the global marketplace will have access to some of the top creators on the African continent. We will offer a safe landing space that hosts and enables artists, buyers, and galleries to be current and at the forefront of the rapidly growing NFT marketplace. Our drive is to build the biggest database of African contemporary artists, creatives and musicians leading the frontier of artists to earn and continue earning.”
Here is a quick crash course on NFTs (in case you are not clued up yet!).
In the world of digital art, it is quite easy to replicate works online. This raises the question of ownership. Enter the NFT: a one-of-a-kind digital asset that acts as a certificate of ownership for virtual items. NFT stands for non-fungible token. Most NFTs are registered and secured by the Ethereum blockchain and can consist of many kinds of digital end-products, from jpegs and gifs to Mp4s and other digital files. An NFT can only be owned by one person at a time, and no one can change the record of ownership. The technology behind an NFT allows one to prove who created the digital artwork, and to track its history of ownership. Says Anna, “This is super exciting since it will change the way digital arts is sold from now and in the future.”
Multiplixation, where QkweQkwe’s journey starts
QkweQkwe will launch with an exhibition celebrating growth, proliferation, and abundance through the act of creating on the African continent. The exhibition will feature artists from four African countries, namely Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa. The theme, Multiplixation, is open for interpretation by participating artists. The possibilities are endless. NFTs are still a new space for most of us. Although the potential for inequitable outcomes exists, it is the newness that levels the playing field for early adopters. What does this mean? Historically marginalized communities will close socio-economic gaps due to the diversity in the early NFT space. And, in a world facing systemic oppression, this will be the most innovative outcome of all.