Not a token: The Arab artists joining the unstoppable NFT caravan

NFTs
5 min read
13 January, 2022
Named the 2021 Collins 'Word of the Year', NFTs have shot into the public consciousness as an innovative form of digital trade. But what are they, are they worth investing in and how have Arab artists taken the most out of this newfound opportunity?

The NFTs craze has reached the Arab world, with several artists jumping on the bandwagon by creating and selling NFT’s on various platforms.

NFTs, which stands for non-fungible tokens, is part of the Ethereum blockchain and are unique items that can’t be replaced, unlike Bitcoin, which is fungible. It has made headlines for selling for astronomical prices like Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, which was auctioned for charity and bought for $2.9 million by a Malaysian-based buyer.

"Before the artists try to capitalise on the burgeoning NFT market, it is essential that they work on creating and finessing their own unique style, which can be immediately associated with them"

According to data from DappRadar, the NFT space amassed over $23 billion in trades in 2021, and just a few days ago, the NFT marketplace OpenSea was valued at more than $13 billion.

NFTs in the MENA region

Among the first to embrace the NFT frenzy in the Arab world is Dubai, which has recently announced that it will showcase 50 NFTs by UAE-based artists.

Titled 50/50, the exhibition includes 50 NFTs made by UAE-based artists, including Emirati artists Khalid Al Banna, Alia AlGaoud, and Dalal Ahmed, to mark the UAE’s 50th anniversary. According to the Dubai Media Office, the NFTs vary from 3D pieces to animation, digital drawings to traditional paintings and collages to photography.

Also, in the UAE, The Emirates Post Group issued digital collectable stamps on December 2, commemorating the UAE national holiday. 

Several NFT markets have recently opened in the Middle East, including NIFTY Souq, where artists and collectors in the MENA region can sell and buy NFTs. 

Nuqtah is another NFT platform that is based in Saudi, while Jumy, is an NFT marketplace in the UAE.

Sold out

Syrian artist Stephany Sanossian who creates digital collages sold all the four NFT items featured on NIFTY Souq. 

"The experience was so smooth and easy but getting to sell is a bit tricky," Sanossian told The New Arab. "But thank God we were sold out within the first hour. I recommend it not only to the artists but also to everyone who is up for a challenge and wants to be part of the world's direction that we're heading to," she added, pointing out that she is working on a new collection with a similar style. 

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Meanwhile, Lebanese artist Kristel Bechara, who is based in Dubai and selling her digital art on the Foundation platform, told The New Arab that she has always been fascinated by Decentralised Finance (Defi).

“I wanted to be an early adopter of this amazing technological development and use it to present my art to the world,” she said.

“I started by accepting payment in cryptocurrencies and eventually launched my own NFT tokenised art series, Beauty in Defi, as I saw how beneficial NFTs are for creators and collectors because of the transparent transactional process that safeguards the authenticity of the artwork being sold.”

"There are constant developments happening with the technology, and we need to stay updated in order to maximise what NFTs have to offer to us"

Pricing

Asked about pricing, Bechara, who has created over 30 NFTs, out of which the majority have been sold, said that when it comes to pricing, she had found that the value of NFTs is determined as a traditional art valuation. 

"Since I use Foundation as my preferred NFT marketplace, the collectors are the ones that set the price technically since Foundation is an auction-based platform. I set the price initially, but it is eventually the demand in the market that finalises the valuation of my NFT artwork.

"Pricing depends on each person and how they view their artwork," Sanossian continued. "It is just like real-world pricing. Some artists are reasonably good, and others are extremely attached to the work, so they put the price up."

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Advice for artists

Kristel, who recommends NFTs as an avenue that other artists should explore, has advice for artists.

“Before they try to capitalise on the burgeoning NFT market, it is essential that they work on creating and finessing their own unique style, which can be immediately associated with them. This will set the foundation for not only the NFT art that they will produce, but it will also help in building their brand and legacy as an artist.”

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She added that anybody new to the NFT world needs to do their research and due diligence.

“There are constant developments happening with the technology, and we need to stay updated in order to maximise what NFTs have to offer to us.”

Asked about her plans, Bechara said she was currently focusing on releasing more artworks for Beauty in Defi, her NFT’s collection.

“I have also launched another NFT series called The Titanium series, the artworks of which will be featured on UAE’s first NFT marketplace, JUMY.”

Natasha Tynes is an award-winning Jordanian-American author and communications professional based in Washington, DC. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, Elle, Esquire, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, and the Jordan Times, among many other outlets.

Follow her on Twitter: @NatashaTynes