Nigerian artist Osinachi creates with an unusual medium. You might not guess by looking at his intricately detailed illustrations, but they’re done in Microsoft Word.
“As a child, my father introduced me to the computer,” he says, where he discovered the first online literary magazines. He used Word to submit his writing to these magazines, but when bored he explored the program’s drawing tools.
Starting out by reproducing logos (like the Nigerian Television Authority), 31-year-old Osinachi honed his ability to create art with Word, his medium for 17 years now. “There are a lot of limitations, but I’ve learned to bend it to do what I want it to do, or maybe use those limitations to create other possibilities,” he says. “It’s just about mastering the software.”
Read more: CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2022 Presentation
For this year’s most influential series, CoinDesk asked Osinachi to create a portrait of Mikhaylo Federov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, who raised $178 million in crypto for that country’s war effort.
The digital native artist says he wanted to “highlight what Federov has done to improve the lives of war victims” – a subject Osinachi knows well in his country.
Announcement: An NFT of this image, created by Osinachi, is available to bid at auction on NFT Coinbase. A percentage of the sale will go to charity.
How and when did you first discover NFTs?
I heard about “art on the blockchain” in late 2017, but entered the space in 2018. I was looking for a platform to share my work with a wider audience beyond Instagram and an opportunity to make money with what I do. The traditional art world said, “Your work is beautiful, but it’s digital. Is it still art? Blockchain can offer solutions to this question.
What were some of your main considerations when creating your “most influential” portrayal of Mikhaylo Federov?
I thought about how to honor courage. I’m talking about the people on the front line. When you talk about wars, it’s not just about trying to make peace, but also trying to help those who have been affected.
I come from a tribe here in Nigeria that faced a very horrible civil war. I remember stories of invasion. Even in the face of the horrors of war, [Federov] does things to make people’s lives better.
Can you personally relate to your subject in this way?
I can relate to the idea of being invaded. Take the Biafran War, which some call the Nigerian Civil War. Biafra, made up mainly of Igbo tribes, has said it wants to leave Nigeria and become its own country. But Nigeria said no, we are not going to let you go. This led to the invasion of Biafra by Nigerian forces and the deaths of millions of people, especially children, from malnutrition. This is what binds us in our experience. I was not there during the Biafra war, but [I heard stories].
What are your main artistic influences?
I have a trinity when it comes to influences. There is Njideka Akunyili-Crosby. She is Nigerian-American and creates beautiful portraits that remind me of home. There is nostalgia in what she creates. She is not based in Nigeria so she is interested in her memory.
There is Kehinde Wiley, who is also a Nigerian-American and places black bodies in dignified positions, making them beautiful and larger than life. Then there is Tschabalala Self, who creates portraits of women with unconventional body shapes. I see it as a tribute to a beautiful woman regardless of her form.
Where do you see yourself in the world of NFT art?
There are two things I want to see not just for myself, but for the space as a whole. One is to see us come closer to realizing the dream of full decentralization. It may not happen for another 10 or 50 years. It’s a journey.
I also want to see more collaborations in the space, especially with actors from the traditional art world. We cannot just exist in isolation as artists in the NFT space. The journey to decentralization is best enjoyed when you have company. We can follow those of the traditional art world.
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