NFT opportunities for local digital artists
By Kudakwashe Mushayavanhu
NFTs, short for nonfungible tokens, have birthed global appeal and are becoming an increasingly popular way to buy and sell digital artwork. They can come in the form of digital art, photographs and music. NFTs have dominated international news coverage and Namibian artists can join the NFT goldrush. Using NFTs, Namibian communities can secure their heritage, protect their art rights, and generate long-term royalties.
An NFT itself is a unique digital asset that is verifiable by a public ledger of transactions—making it possible to spot when something is real and when it is a forgery. This public ledger, referred to as the blockchain, is the best method developed to prove whether something online is authentic—based on the publisher source or the publication’s timestamp.
NFTs can be anything digital (such as drawings, and music), but a lot of the current excitement is around using the tech to sell digital art.
What characterises the NFT’s is that they are unique, indivisible, and transferable and it can also be shown that they are scarce. To create an NFT it is necessary to “mint” it, that is, convert it into a digital asset on the blockchain, which can be done in some NFT Marketplace like OpenSea which has more than one million users buying and selling digital art and collectables via their platform.
The value of an NFT can be set by the artist or bid for at auction. NFTs can be bought or sold using virtual wallets that exchange the cryptocurrency Ether, which can be exchanged for fiat currencies like the US dollar and withdrawn as cash. What buyers are getting when they purchase an NFT is an undeniable proof (authenticated through blockchain technology), that they are the owner of the work. The digital file is embedded with a permanent signature and established provenance that will prove, forever, the creator, the owner, and the previous owners of the token.
With NFTs the term struggling artist may be a thing of the past. As there seems to be a market for all NFT artists, at all stages of their careers. With price ranges starting from budget pieces to mega investments.
Local artists can leverage the art world’s shift to the digital world through NFTs. The biggest use of NFTs today is in the digital content realm. An artist publishing work on a social network makes money for the platform and sells ads to the artist’s followers. Getting exposure in return. But with NFTs ownership is baked into the content itself. Creators can retain ownership rights over their work, and claim resale royalties directly.
Thus, NFTs push the medium of digital art in interesting directions. For instance, an artist producing physical art pieces can also mint their work into NFT art and trade both physical and digital versions of the work. As such, NFTs provide an additional distribution channel for creators.
Imagine a world where artists earn royalties for every sale of their work in perpetuity. Embedded within Nfts is a smart contract technology, where an artist can choose to conclude a purchase agreement in a manner that grants them royalty payment each time their work is subsequently traded. This is guaranteed because the artist’s address is part of the token’s metadata which cannot be modified.
Just as the world of art has changed throughout history Nfts have the potential to be a new medium for artists to explore and monetize their work. As the technology offers a revolutionary new way of selling art. You get to be introduced to collectors, who otherwise may never have had a chance to see your pieces.
To tackle the trepidation that can come with something new African digital artists have built communities like Africa NFT Community, Black NFT Art, Network of African NFT Artists, and Afro Future DAO. These groups host spaces on Twitter for Nft. Where you get to engage with local artists and also market your work, share ideas, resources, and challenges as well as help up-and-coming artists to scale.
However, a lot of bottlenecks hinder many African artists, particularly budding ones, from participating. The most challenging issue in the NFT space is the exorbitant gas fees required for minting on most NFT marketplaces. Lack of technical know-how and fewer people in the data economy locally are other barriers to entry.
Whether you like the concept of NFTs or not, digital art is here to replace its physical forebear —these digital collectables in the form of art, GIFs, videos, and music cannot be ignored.