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If art imitates real life then artists may be the finest philosophers in any given society. Indeed, I would argue that they are. In societies like Nigeria, the pluses to pursuing a career in visual art are not apparent to those not paying attention, but that does not remotely affect the fact that many visual artists have been cashing in on their talent for years. Many have chanced upon the fact that art had been looked down on in our society for the longest time to amass fame, adulation away from the scrutiny and attention of the greater majority of the public.
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Nigerian creative artists have found new ways to plug their craft into new and even more lucrative income streams. Sly Megida is one of this new breed of creatives leveraging blockchain technology to distribute their work among other forms of tech on the internet these days. I had a chat with him and the following paragraphs are built on what he had to say. Born Okenwa Chimaobi Emmanuel, Sly Megida is a Nigerian visual artist, filmmaker and creative director/ founder of Coke Spice Art Ltd and progenitor of the ‘’ Afro-Pop’’ art movement. I asked what the Afro-Pop movement was and to that, he described the term as having being inspired by the more mainstream Afrobeat inspired Afro-Pop music genre. As for what inspired his venture into the visual arts, he had this to say of his start,
“My art influences grew over the years from my experiences growing up in Ojo, an impoverished enclave in the city of Lagos, where I daily observed the struggles of the common man, while in primary and secondary school at both Hill Top School Ojo and the Nigerian Navy School Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria”. “I was known to always score the highest in fine art assignments and draw impressive science diagrams in biology class”,
he adds rather cheekily. Sly did not venture into art professionally until much later during his university days at Wisconsin International University, Accra, Ghana, while, according to him, on a journey of self-rediscovery, he took up drawing as a means of escape from his thoughts and got positive compliments from friends and onlookers. The first step is that he started getting paid to draw friends’ portraits and pictures on their special occasions; birthdays and weddings. He decided he was going to pursue art professionally but had to determine the kind of artist he wanted to be so he studied the careers of several artists past and present and discovered that Africa didn’t have a recognized artistic role model who changed the tide and influence the time; someone who aspiring artists could look up to. And there was a need for African stories to be retold by Africans and not what the Western media are portraying. He (Sly) decided that he was going to carve a niche and become a role model for others hence revolutionize African art. He reiterated in his own words,
“Art is in everything we do or see and should have a telling influence on society and a spiral effect that retells our everyday story.”
Upon his return home to Nigeria, he assembled a team of friends and kick-started the art brand, Coke Spice, thus paving the way for their first exhibition, Never Mind. For young Sly, “art is life and life is art”.
“Art is the water that washes away the struggles of daily life from our eyes, art means appreciating the beauty in situations and people, art is everything”,
he quipped.
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What I found most fascinating was how Sly and his ilk have leveraged the internet, especially blockchain technology. On that, he had a good lot to say… with some prodding of course.
“(Laugh out loud)… Who doesn’t?  The world is a digital economy where businesses have to leverage the use of the internet to generate tractions and reach more people and demography. I feel that art is for everyone and not just a select few; everyone should be able to enjoy and appreciate art”,
he muses calmly. It has to be said that more and more people are getting on the internet, and the speed with which Africa’s emerging middle-class have taken to blockchain is one of the positive results of this growth in internet penetration. Non-fungible tokens have been the fad in blockchain since the pandemic, really, and it is really a no-brainer that Sly has gotten in on it already.
“My team and I have decided to put out an NFT collection of my Artwork titled The Drug Of Art. This project doesn’t aim to condemn people (addicts), but rather acts as a form of experiential therapy, an approach to recovery that addresses emotional and spiritual needs through creative or physical activity. With this project Our focus will be on utility and charity with 50% of all profit going toward our aim of helping to create a better environment for recovering from and overcoming addiction.”
On his new collection which actually is his very first of the sort, Sly waxes very lyrical too.
“Hustle is an excerpt of my remarkable artistic journey, a product of my imagination”,
he said.
“It addresses the need for creative’s to outline a clear blueprint of their vision and a reminder that the journey to greatness would be daunting hence they need the right ingredients which would qualify them to climb to the top of the pyramid and reap the rewards of their work.”
A firm believer of due process, his aim is to motivate and inspire individuals to believe in the numerous possibilities that are inevitable in life. The Hustle Collection is exclusively on his personal website, where you’re required to subscribe with a little token of $1.99 (1200 NGN) to have a personal viewing of the Hustle Collection.
“It’s one I recommend for every hustler, the corporate/business hustler”,
he tells me quite frankly. He is aiming high as he believes his target demography to be a high-value one.
“I’m very much aware that this concept is a first of its kind in Nigeria or Africa particularly. I’m looking forward to creating a lasting structure for the Nigerian Artspace as I believe there’s no existing structure for the visual artists, hereby creating a sense of deserved value to visual artists who are recognized and unrecognized, other than going through the traditional process, I believe we have evolved as a people and so should our ways of expression be too.”
Payment is available through a convenient means. According to him,
“I’d like to address the subject of the security of the payment system on my website, it’s an international payment system (stripe x paxful) and they’re a 100% secure and guaranteed. The security of my supporters and everyone watching isn’t one I’d not take seriously.”
On his future prospects, Sly is both cryptic and enthusiastic at the same time. You can tell this is a person that is sure of his own prospects more than anything else.
“I’m a lover of surprises, it’s an interesting journey and there’s no telling what we could achieve, you will see”,
he closes.
Got a suggestion? Contact us: editor@connectnigeria.com

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This article was first published on 14th October 2021

david-okwara

Some call me David. Others, Emerie. Others, (unfortunate fellows) Biggie. I like to think that I have sense and that is why I write too. Otherwise, I draw and paint and sing (in the bathroom) and love to make people laugh. I love to understand how things work and that’s why I love DIY videos and YouTube of course. Follow me on Twitter @EmerieOkwara


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