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NFTs and the Meme Culture in Nigeria

NFTs and Nigeria
Image Credit: Kabiru Yusuf

Memes are one of the most prominent features of the internet age. One only needs few seconds of internet time to come across a bunch of memes these days. Some internet memes have attained fame in internet culture, having been used millions—if not billions—of times by internet users on various social media. This is not a surprise because memes are a way for people to express themselves creatively. 

Whether they are celebrities or random individuals, many memes have enjoyed virality in Nigeria.  An easy example is memes made out from clips of Osita Iheme “Pawpaw” a veteran Nollywood actor. The meme-famous actor has made the trend-list many times for his memes, and in 2019, American hip-hop artiste, 50 Cent, posted his memes on his Instagram page.

Unavoidably, human meme characters lack control of their use on the internet, and until recently; they were of no value to them. “Once it’s out there…there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Mr. Roth, father of the “disaster girl” girl meme in an interview. The question now is how memes can benefit from their meme-fame.

What Are NFTS?

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are a type of digital crypto asset. NFTs enable individuals to acquire “digital estate” in digital artworks, music, videos, memes, etc. The idea of NFTs is for collectors to own original items—in the case of memes, the original meme image— for digital bragging rights. Also, artists and content creators now have the opportunity to monetize their works with NFTs.

On the business side, NFTs sell for fortunes. A digital collage by Mike Winkelmann (known as Beeple) sold at $69.3 million in March of 2021. The NFT meme market has also recorded great success in recent times. The “disaster girl” meme sold at $500,000 in May. “Bad luck Brian” and “Success kid” memes also auctioned for whooping sums.

NFTs In Nigeria

Nigerians have also hopped on the NFT trend and it seems to be gaining traction. Jason Osinachi, a Nigerian artist, recently sold two of his digital art pieces for $16,227 and $23,633. Popular Nigerian artiste, M.I Abaga, confirmed that his next album would be an NFT.

But the same attention has not been paid to memes in Nigeria, despite the rich meme culture in its internet space and the evident success of the NFT meme market in other parts of the world. 

Until now, there has not been a sale of NFT memes of Nigerian origin. Although notably, Chinedu Ikedieze “Aki”, a popular Nigerian actor, set the record as the first Nigerian actor to get his own NFTs for his memes in June 2021. Expectedly, pundits have made comments about the uncertainty of the future of the NFTs and the tendency for it to be yet another financial bubble like the dotcom bubble, but it observed that every novel blockchain technology before NFTs had to jump these hurdle of doubts. There are also legal considerations that come with NFTs that pertain to taxability of NFTs, ownership of the intellectual property, and copyright infringement, but Oluwapelumi Omoniyi notes that these are issues for which “the law has to be ready”.

Whatever the doubts may be, it is clear that memes are an important part of the internet culture of Nigerians. NFT sales of these memes will further cement the cultural importance of memes in Nigeria. NFT sales have helped “establish memes as a sophisticated art form and serious pieces of culture”, said Ben Lashes, a meme manager to some meme-famous individuals.

Thus, Nigerian meme owners making their move on the market now may yield big profits to them in the future and further immortalize the meme culture in Nigeria.

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