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How This Artist Blends Digital Art with the Real World in His Paintings and Sculptures

Story by Vikki Keingati and Okwi Okoh for bird story agency

Chuma Anagbado carefully pulls a trigger in a Nairobi workshop to force high-pressure air via grooves created by a drill bit.

Anagbado is hunched over a computer-controlled cutting device known as a CNC router as it carves out his most recent piece, “Ola Aka,” after spending hundreds of hours rife with trial and error. Igbo for “bangles” is “Ola Aka.”

Nigerian artist and businessman Anagbado uses a variety of media in his work. He’s always aspired to fuse his passion for digital art with his training in painting and sculpture.

Therefore, Anagbado transformed “Ola Aka” into a non-fungible token before making the piece actual (NFT). This indicates that the piece of art has been authenticated using blockchain technology and is now available as an online collectible.

“I wanted to share a tale about jewelry and how Africans wear it. Images of women wearing bangles and beads that I witnessed as a child served as my inspiration. My friend and I were having a conversation when she just made an expression. I took a picture of it and then added the pattern and the bangles. The CNC whirs and hums nearby as Anagbado remarks, “Once that component was finished, it was good to go as an NFT.

The Mvule wood panel that Anagbado picked for the piece required more than eight hours to etch “Ola Aka” into and prepare it to hold acrylic paint. The completed piece was the first in a new series he calls “phygital.”

The idea of phygital is gaining acceptance on a global scale. It may be summed up as “using technology to link the digital and physical worlds in order to provide the user with distinctive interactive experiences.”

“When I was alone, I had the thought, ‘It is all really one thing. One expression only. one object that lives simultaneously in both the physical and digital realms. I exposed my work on both platforms, that’s what I did. You receive the actual piece through shipping if you purchase the NFT. If you purchase the physical item, I will just send the NFT to your wallet, according to Anagbado.

The Willowbough Collective, a custom woodworking business run by Mark Shitakha, is responsible for bringing Anagbado’s collection to life. He is aware of how crucial this is. He knows how important this part of Anagbado’s creative journey is.

It’s fascinating because African artists are now using digital fabrication into the entire process. I don’t know how long it’s been going on, but we’re only now catching up to it. It gives African artists many additional avenues through which to express themselves, according to Shitakha.

Many variables, according to artists like Anagbado, support their use of digital expression. Leading NFT websites like Opensea, Magic Eden, and Rarible give you the chance to expand your market outside geographical boundaries.

The fact that these platforms enable verified payments to be done on well-known blockchains like Ethereum, Solana, and Polygon utilizing the cryptocurrencies linked to those blockchains is one of the most crucial factors.

“Now that we have a global audience, we are creating communities around our works. Digital art will undoubtedly have a significant impact on how art is created in Africa as a whole, which is a really positive development, according to Anagbado.

Chainanalysis, a company that tracks blockchain activities globally, stated in 2022 that cryptocurrency payments in Africa crossed the US$100 billion threshold at some point between June 2020 and July 2021.

Uncertainty surrounds how much of Africa’s “crypto pie” is consumed via NFT transactions, such as the sale of “Ola Aka” in January 2023 for around USD $2,250.

However, there is one point of agreement among artists, writers, collectors, and traders: digital art is becoming more and more well-liked across the continent, particularly in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, where cryptocurrencies are widely used.

Many people who previously had difficulty finding a market for their creations now have a platform on which to demonstrate their skills as musicians, artists, and even real estate service providers thanks to the NFT space. According to Betty Waitharero, a board member of the Telos Foundation, which operates the Telos blockchain, “we should see very efficient payments and settlement platforms employing the technical facilities available in protected blockchains to deliver a greater range of financial services.”

But any African artist who hopes to swiftly assemble a sizable digital wallet should reconsider. The usage of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies is frequently unregulated in African nations, and in some, it is simply forbidden.

Therefore, transactions and conversions may be time-consuming, dangerous, and expensive. The average artist can spend more over $100 on minting a single NFT, even before accounting for internet and initial registration fees.

Analysts claim that additional investment in African digital art is necessary to maintain a healthy sector, particularly during the present bear market in cryptocurrencies. This is one of the reasons Anagbado supports the development of local communities that may advance the industry by facilitating access to resources like funding and technology.

The Nigeria NFT Community was founded by him in collaboration with Charles Mbata, a digital art investor, collector, and curator. The same objectives are promoted by the Network of Africa NFT Artists, Kenya NFT Club, and Africa NFT Community.

Going “phygital” has given the artist a method to broaden and enhance the value of his digital work in the interim.

While adding a dash of color to the artwork he hopes will eventually be seen on fabrics and even the exteriors of large buildings, Anagbado will closely monitor the sector’s overall progress.

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