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African artists embrace NFTs for better rewards

NIGERIAN artist Abdulrahman Yusuf used to sell his work online but in May he was introduced to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which he said presented ‘life-changing opportunities’ and has increased the number of pieces he can sell at higher prices.

NFTs are a type of digital asset which use blockchain to record the ownership of items such as images, videos and other collectibles. Their roaring popularity has baffled many but the explosive growth shows no sign of abating.

And African artists like Yusuf are increasingly using NFTs, where the buyer has the status of being the official owner – a kind of digital bragging rights.

Yusuf, who lives in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, said he had sold 44 digital works on various NFT platforms since joining in May under the name ‘Arclight’.

‘There are life-changing opportunities on the NFT platforms. People who have been selling their artworks for $200 just wake up and see their works sold for $40,000,’ Yusuf, 24, told Reuters at his home studio.

The growing influence of NFTs took centre stage at the four-day, annual Art X Lagos, West Africa’s premier international art fair that ended on Sunday.

Yusuf, whose work is partly inspired by pop culture and fashion, sold one piece at the fair but did not reveal the price. His most expensive piece before the fair cost 2.2 ethereum ($10,274), he said.

The founder of Art X Lagos, Tokini Peterside, said the 2021 fair involved a special NFTs sale in partnership with digital art marketplace SuperRare, the first such collaboration with an African art fair.

The fair hosted NFT artists from across Africa and its diaspora, some of whom have their works on SuperRare.

‘NFTs are now bringing formidable opportunities to these artists to commercialise their work, secure their work on the blockchain, attach smart contracts to their work, which govern the way the work is sold and resold,’ Peterside told Reuters.

This year’s Art X Lagos was the first full hybrid fair, combining an online and physical presence, she said.


Fikayo Owoeye and Nneka Chile/Reuters

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