Osinachi (Prince Jacon Osinachi Igwe) was born Oct 24, 1991 in Aba, Nigeria. Africa’s foremost crypto artist, Osinachi made a huge splash on the digital art scene over the last year. With an unmistakable style and a unique color palette inspired by Nigerian textiles, Osinachi’s work combats the negativity of his country’s vicious LGBT laws with stories of love and happiness. He also uses his work to touch on topics of environmentalism, racism and single parenthood.
Growing up in Nigeria with limited access to computers and computer programs, it’s incredible that Osinachi was able to find new ways of using Microsoft Word to create artworks that told the important stories he wanted to tell. In this recent write up for Osinachi’s upcoming solo exhibition at the Kate Vass Galerie in Zurich, art collector and curator Jason Bailey sums it up beautifully:
“…great art comes from the artist, not from the tools they use.” — Jason Bailey
We recently interviewed Osinachi to get some deeper insights into his unique story and process, and we’re excited to share it with the CryptoArt community.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. How long have you been making art, and why did you decide to focus on digital art?
A: I’m Osinachi from Nigeria. I was born and raised in Aba, a city well known for industry. I have been making art since I was little — you know, little drawings of Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters I encountered while growing up — but I didn’t really think of making digital art until my father introduced me to the computer. At first, I was using the computer to type manuscripts of stories and poems I’d written. I was doing all this using Microsoft Word, but I soon found out that I enjoyed playing around with the software and that was where it took off for me. I didn’t take art-making seriously until 2014 when I was done with my undergraduate research project and needed something meaningful to fill my time with. Digital art gave me the ability to enjoy creating artworks as well as the company of the computer. That’s like killing two birds with one stone. I think that’s why I decided to focus on it.
Q: You are becoming widely known as the first digital artist from Africa to find big success in the digital/crypto art space. Can you talk a little about what that means to you?
A: It’s really mind-blowing. It makes me think of the level of success African artists can achieve in a space like this. I found out about cryptoart just by serendipity: I was looking for opportunities that would afford me some kind of visibility as an artist. Cryptoart has given me more than that. It has given me a platform that rewards me for my creativity; it has also given me a platform that allows me to visually share my personal experiences as not only an African and a Nigerian, but also an Igbo person. I am blown to see collectors going for my artworks, which mostly have black subjects. This means I am bringing diversity to cryptoart, and that’s important for the space. I also feel like, somehow, I am playing a huge part in history here. I want my success in cryptoart to inspire more African artists to join in the movement, especially those who have authentic stories and are looking for visibility.
Q: Your style is very unique and distinguishable — tell us a bit about your process from start to finish — what tools do you mainly use to create your digital works?
A: For artists, each piece often starts with an idea, a vision. Same applies to me. When I’m hit with a vision, it might take a while to perfect it in my head. Once I feel it’s time to start working on it, I will have to look for a model to pose for me. Most people don’t know it but I use models. So far, it’s been my friends and acquaintances. So I take a photo of the model in the pose that I want, then looking at that pose, I get to work on Microsoft Word.
I use the drawing tools in the word processor to sketch. After sketching, I add colours and every other digital embellishment I may feel I need for the piece to reach or exceed the original vision I had. Once I am done with that, I convert the file to PDF and make a JPG or PNG version of it. For material artworks, which are produced as limited edition prints, this is where the process of creating ends. However, if I need to animate the work to tell a fuller story, I move the file to Adobe After Effects and do what I need to there. I have realized that sometimes I don’t really need After Effects to better animate. So, I painstakingly create different frames of the artwork on Microsoft Word, then bring them together to make one piece. That’s how the work becomes alive.
Q: Could you describe what kinds of themes/stories you typically focus on and why?
A: Stories are important to me. I grew up reading many stories; I also tried to write some myself. My current art practice takes that as its center, and then branches out to the themes I like to explore in my work. Some of these themes include LGBTQ+, androgyny, family life, pop culture as we’re experiencing it in Africa now etc.
In my country Nigeria, there’s a senseless law that prescribes up to 14 years jail term for people convicted of homosexuality. Clueless citizens who go about harassing people suspected to be LGBTQ+ have kind of extended this law. Sometimes, there are stories about members of the community being setup and extorted. We also hear stories about assaults, even to the point of death. I believe that art is not escapism, and I live this reality by making art that boldly stares this sort of discrimination in the face. Through my art, I want to inform citizens that sexual minorities exist and their demonization is just uncalled-for, especially in a country where politicians steal in broad daylight, depriving citizens of basic needs such as electricity supply, water supply, transportation, good education etc.
A friend often says to me that my art is an affront to toxic masculinity, and I agree. Toxic masculinity fills my space — from the home to the streets and the offices — and I’m making art to remind men that they can be the best of themselves without wearing all that mask that supposedly makes them tough. This way, children are safer and women are encouraged to make their own contributions to society without feeling unsafe or threatened. So, yea, my art stares societal problems like this in the face because art, to me, is about tabling issues and sorting them out creatively.
Q: What do you hope people feel when they look at your art?
A: When people encounter my art, I hope they go “Wow”. “Wow”, not only in reaction to my unusual technique but to the beauty and possibilities that my artwork represents.
Q: How long do you typically spend on a piece?
A: A piece can take about 3 to 4 days for me to finish (that includes the times when I just drop it and move over to doing other things). Sometimes, I spend like 1 or 2 days on a piece — especially when the vision is so strong I’m afraid I might lose it.
Q: Who are some of your biggest artistic influences?
A: One of my biggest influences is Njideka Akunyili-Crosby. I feel that her work mirrors my experience in a way, as an Igbo person. She makes these beautiful artworks that force me to go back to my childhood. I’m also in love with Tschabalala Self. This awesome artist plays with black figures in a mesmerizing way. Another artist is Devan Shimoyama. Have you seen his work?! How he celebrates the queer culture, sexuality and blackness at the same time. Funnily enough, these are traditional artists.
Q: What advice would you give to new artists joining SuperRare?
A: Patience should be your watchword. As an artist joining SuperRare, you’ve come into a community where you are valued for what you make and supported for your creativity, but you have to be patient and consistent in your art to better understand how the cryptoart space works. Also important is a unique voice. If you don’t have a unique voice, if someone can’t see your work and mention your name even without reading the description, then that should be your main target for now. Not selling works for hundreds of dollars.
Q: Who are some of your favorite artists on SuperRare?
A: I love Hackatao. The uniqueness and the confidence I feel in their work is just amazing. They’ve also been guiding me through my journey in the cryptoart space and I am grateful for that. XCOPY is also one artist I find interesting. I always see every XCOPY as a piece of art that’s both stammering and at the same time fluent. I recently discovered Tom Erik Smith. I think his work is deep in a hypnotic kind of way.
Q: What has been your favorite moment since joining SuperRare?
A: I’ve had a lot of moments on SuperRare, but my favorite has to be when CuriousNFTs bought my piece ‘Elephant in the Room’ for over a thousand dollars, and then traded it with Artnome for an unscratched Dr Beef card. Artnome sent the card all the way to Tokyo. I felt like my art was changing lives, and both collectors earned my respect.
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