In brief

  • Osinachi is the first African NFT artist featured at Christie's Europe.
  • His entire collection was created using Microsoft Word.

Africa’s best-known digital artist Osinachi—who uses Microsoft Word as his canvas— first got his hands on a computer when he was 16 years old.

He was born in 1991 in Ada, Nigeria, a modest city of 2.5 million at a time when most people there couldn't afford a home computer. Instead, his father, an importer, would frequent a local cybercafe, where he rented time on a PC.

“My father was drawn to the computer because he’s a businessman who had to write tons of letters to his business partners,” Osinachi said. “The emergence of cyber cafes in Nigeria at a time when it was super expensive to own a desktop computer was really a good thing for him. He dived in—and took me along.”

That turned out to be auspicious. Osinachi got to fool around on the computer too, and taught himself how to use Word—not to write letters, but to create art. Since October 5, Christie’s Europe has been auctioning off some of Osinachi’s Word-created NFTs, making him the first African NFT artist to be so honored.

Today, the social token platform Socialstack is launching CommunityOS, a dapp for community engagement around tokens. Osinachi, who is chief creative officer at Socialstack, will use CommunityOS to help expand awareness of his OSINA token (launched in 2020 on Roll) and to build his fanbase.

Osinachi is kicking down the door for African artists to enter the NFT auction market. The exhibit, "Different Shades of Water," features five of the artists' images in homage to the 1972 David Hockney painting "Pool with Two Figures." Osinachi says it's "my own way of condensing my experience, not just as a Black person, but also as a Nigerian, and more specifically, as a person."

Positive impact

Socialstack launched in February with the aim at doing good globally. The tools unveiled today are part of a product suite that offers “plug & play functionality to power tokenized communities.”

A portrait of the artist

Andrew Berkowitz, co-founder and CEO of Socialstack, said that starting today and through October 19, attendees of the ongoing exhibit at Christie's in London will be able to earn OSINA tokens by taking a picture in front of the Osinachi art pieces and sharing it on Twitter.

"It's a way to incentivize social sharing for people while they're at the events, with a token reward," Berkowitz says. Guests attending the auction can also participate in an augmented reality experience by scanning QR codes placed throughout the auction house using the Socialstack community tool.

Osinachi said he got involved with Socialstack at the start of the year after meeting Berkowitz and being impressed by his vision of using social tokens to do good,  rather than just make money. "Positive impact is something I love being a part of," Osinachi said. "Whether rallying crypto art community members to pay attention to what is happening in my part of the world, or donating part of proceeds of the sale of my work to charity."

A new asset class for creators

Social tokens have slowly been building momentum as a way for creators and artists to monetize their work, likeness, and name. Berkowitz sees them as "a new cryptocurrency asset class that came into existence over the past couple of years. It's cryptocurrency whose value is tied to the underlying brand or community that's issuing the token, as opposed to other crypto assets where the value is derived from the underlying network itself."

Socialstack says it launched its social tokens on Ethereum and Celo and made the CommunityOS on Polygon. Berkowitz believes that leveraging a token reward to incentivize behavior will set an exciting precedent for in-person events, from liking and sharing on social media to buying merch.

"This is a kind of a new asset class for the creator economy, for impact organizations or nonprofits that want to launch a token," Berkowitz said. "But it's not about the tech, it's about the community itself."

Word

Born Prince Jacon Osinachi Igwe, the artist is entirely self-taught and prefers to use Microsoft Word instead of Adobe or the high-end design tools favored by other digital artists. He even sees something decentralized and democratic about the program.

"It's not difficult for me to create art on Microsoft Word," he said. “I mean, over time I have perfected my practice in such a way that it comes naturally to me to use Word as my canvas." His collection for auction was created with the word-processing software.

He said he minted his first NFT in 2017, thinking that it might help him build an audience beyond Instagram. The art world took notice, and he was a finalist for the Bridgeman Studio Award in 2019.

"Nobody thought that NFTs could sell for so much until Beeple did it," Osinachi said. "My auction at Christie's shows that African artists can excel in the space beyond platforms and go on to auction houses."

Editor's note: The headline of this article was updated on Oct. 14 at 11:25am EST to reflect that Socialstack's new CommunityOS feature is not launching a new OSINA token, but building a community around the existing token, which was launched in 2020 on Roll.