Owo Anietie is one of the Nigerians dominating the NFT space right now. His story begins in Akwa Ibom where he decided to become a professional artist in 2009. After relocating to Lagos about 10 years later, he took things up a notch by exploring the art world through painting, sculpting, computer graphics, animations, motion design, and now NFTs. Blending 3D with motion design and traditional paintings, he uses his artworks to mirror nature, depict African stories and his origin. Owo tells Culture Custodian about his art, finding inspiration, creating the AfroDroids project, NFT journey so far, and more during our conversation conducted over Google Meet:
What’s your story in art?
I am a 3D artist from Nigeria and the creator of Afrodroids, a 12k PFP project in the NFT space that tells a story of human existence through the African lens. I have been an artist almost my whole life but I started taking it seriously, professionally in 2009. Since then, I have been a professional artist mostly painting, sculpting, and doing graphics. I think in 2011/2012 or thereabout, I ventured into computer graphics, advertising in the motion design space, and animation. The way it happened was really funny. I just saw a poster on the road and called the guy and turned out he was an animator like myself so we tried to do a trailer for a feature film and tried to use the trailer to get funding to make a full movie. Our partnership ended prematurely because he expected me to do most of the work so I went back to being a traditional artist. Eventually, I moved to Lagos in 2018/2019-ish to attend an advertising school. I worked at a couple of agencies before quitting my job to focus on NFT full-time in 2021. On September 1st, I dropped AfroDroids which is the biggest PFP out of Africa right now in my opinion.
What inspires you to create the way you do?
I try to open up and let everything around me inspire me. It could be a flip flop I’m wearing, it could just be me taking a walk. I intentionally live here because the street next to mine is kind of a low-income area. For me, it keeps me grounded because when I walk that street, it reminds me of when I was a kid, I didn’t have anything and we were poor. So when I take a walk, it takes me down memory lane as a kid. My childhood was the most creative period of my life. So, being here opens me up to think like a child again, opens me up to express myself the way I want to so yeah, that’s what inspires me. Everyday people, culture, history. I’m a lover of history. I like to watch history a lot. I’m also a lover of science. I love actual science, not science fiction.
How do you know when your work is ready?
It’s never ready. None of my art is ready. A lot of young artists and people coming into the art sphere overthink it. Your work can never be ready. As an artist, as soon as you drop you don’t like it anymore.
What do you like most about being an artist?
The freedom. I mean I get to do what I love and get paid for it. Trust me, I would do it for free if I wasn’t earning money. I mean we dropped AfroDroids and we got a substantial amount. Nothing has changed. I am still living in the same house I am living in. Maybe buy better equipment to help deliver more and maybe not worry so much about where my daily bread is going to come from but I am still out here telling the stories because there are so many stories from Africa that I think even if I came back in 5 years I won’t be able to tell all of them.
What motivated you to join the NFT space?
A couple of my colleagues were talking about this crypto art thing and I’m like, what the hell is crypto art? Like, is it art with crypto? So I went on Google and did research on what it was and found out that it’s a new technology called NFT (Non-Fungible Token) that gives creators the ability to protect their assets. Because for me as an artist, I never like the idea of watermarking my work. I don’t like it, for me, it looks like just hell. I like giving people the freedom, if you want to use it, sure you can use it as long as you’re not selling it or using it for maybe, your album art. NFT presented an opportunity for me to kind of watermark my work without having to put my signature on it which I never have. I think the person that onboarded me into the NFT space is Don Allen the second. He’s an AR expert and has worked with places like Snapchat, Instagram, and, you know, creating a few tasks for them. I reached out to him and I was like, “yo, what’s this new technology about?” And he sent me a couple of resources. I did my research and my mind was blown. When I was finally ready to put out my first drop, I was lucky enough to sell it within 24 hours. So yeah, that’s kind of how I got into the NFT space.
You mentioned AfroDroids earlier, can you break it down for us non-NFT people?
AfroDroids is a PFP, which stands for Profile Picture Project. It’s a 12k project built on the Ethereum blockchain. So, all of the artworks that you see live on the Ethereum blockchain. When we launched the project, we made it public for people to kind of get access to it. So, people get to own a particular image of one or several works and use it as their avatar on the internet. PFP projects are really important as they create a way for people to own a stake in a particular project so if the project does good, you will probably sell the project to make more money. With projects like Bored Ape, some people minted it for like a hundred bucks and now these are going for millions of dollars. That’s the whole idea of the PFP project is to give people ownership, instead of owning a token like Bitcoin, you will get an ERC721 or an ERC1155 or ERC721A kind of token that you get to keep and that is also a beautiful picture you can use in your profile picture.
Instead of just putting tokens out there, artists like myself try to elevate the culture. That’s why there is a story behind my project, AfroDroids. A group of scientists found a way to merge human consciousness with machines called AfroDroids. We took this and turned it into a layered story told in three parts. We have the origin story which is how the AfroDroids came to be and how they were made in the Afrodroids lab. Then, there is the realization story where they realize they have human consciousness, like machines roaming about, remembering lives they never lived, remembering playing with their kids on the playground and being in relationships, being loved, and all of that. The last layer is the Super AfroDroids. Currently, each AfroDroids has just one consciousness but the SuperDroids take three human consciousness. There are currently 12,000 AfroDroids in supply. It gives you access to our future drops, our SuperAfroDroids, and also gives you access to me as an artist and gives people access to be able to help build a school here in Nigeria, Africa. We plan to offer an upgrade to your AfroDroids, kind of like an AfroDroids 2.0 where the machine is more robust, it’s more powerful, it’s bigger.
Tell me about this school
After the AfroDroids project dropped, we gave about $500,000 to a charity here in Nigeria called Dream Catchers Academy. What they do is they go to underrepresented communities, take little girls from abusive homes and teach them dance and entertainment as a way of getting them interested in actually going back to school. When we met them they were building their school and shelter, which was just at the foundation stage. We spoke to the coordinator Seyi, who told us about their housing and financial issues which worsened during the pandemic. One day, she tweeted about how bad things had gotten. It broke my heart because nobody should have to eat that way and it’s something I told my collectors, if you saw how they were feeding you won’t want to feed your kids this stuff. From her estimate, the money that feeds one kid is about $10 or thereabout which is not the biggest amount out there. We wanted to help them. Right now, I think they’re almost done with school. They have a shelter that they are building as well. They also bought a school bus to take the kids to school and have gotten laptops for all of them. My manager said that she’s going to educate them about web three because a lot of them want to know about this technology that helped build a school and shelter. I think eventually we will put together a documentary that talks about this. That’s kind of like my mission with AfroDroids. The end game for me was to educate people about what’s happening on our planet, global warming, the way the ice caps are depleting, pollution of the ocean, people being inhumane to the next person, racism, social justice, and so on, that was the whole aim of AfroDroids.
What has your NFT Journey been like?
The journey has been crazy. Some days, you just feel like you are about to lose your shit but there are some days that you are just thankful for being able to be in this space at this time. You know, being able to witness a Renaissance, because what’s happening is a Renaissance where sometimes I just feel like, um, Leonardo Da Vinci or Picasso of this time, being able to tell all those stories and I try as much as possible to use my art to highlight issues that are going on in Nigeria.
Do you recommend Nigerians join the NFT space?
Of course. Why not? Like the more, the merrier, I think the sky is big enough for every star to shine. I don’t like gatekeeping information. So if I know anything, I share it, So yeah. I think there’s a need for more Nigerian artists to be coming to the space. We don’t have enough people. We need more people. We need to get to a space where NFTs are equivalent to using social media. I think it’s going to happen. Everybody’s going to be selling NFTs in a couple of years.
What advice do you have for Nigerians joining the NFT space?
Community is everything. Be authentic and be a human being.