21/06/2021 ‘We’re working towards Afrofuturism’: inside a radical new NFT exhibition

The world’s first physical gallery for NFTs is hosting a new exhibition, curated by a 17-year-old artist, centered on Black creativity and liberation
“The past four years felt so horrible. I think it all crashed down on me at that moment,” remembers Diana Sinclair, recalling how she cried before the media announced the results of the 2020 election. Sinclair, who describes herself (they/she) as a 17-year-old Black queer woman, says the action was unlike her, so much so it was jarring to her parents.

“It scared me to think that [the hatred] could continue on for four more years … You saw it online in the comments, even in my own town,” she told the Guardian. “I was on Facebook and I saw the horrible posts about Black women and Black people and just absolute bigotry from people that were basically my neighbors. It was horrifying ... I was going through all of these scenarios and [thinking about] what my future would look like in this country and that was very frightening for me as a young Black queer person.

“It was a scary time being a Black person in America,” she said. Then, they laugh sardonically: “It’s always a scary time, but especially then!” Now, as curator of the Afrofuturistic cryptoart show Digital Diaspora: Liberating Black Creativity, Sinclair examines hope through a vital lens. “The theme of the show is Afrofuturism, to express our hopes for the future. The philosophy of Afrofuturism is the idea that we’ll [black people] be here and thriving in the future,” she explained.

It’s hosted by Superchief Gallery NFT, the world’s first physical dedicated NFT gallery space. Produced by Towards Utopia and Foundation, the exhibition coincides with the Black American holiday of Juneteenth and envisions Afrofuturism through cryptoart by 18 global Black artists. Proceeds from the show and subsequent auction will go to the artists, Glits, a charity which provides free housing for Black transpeople, and HerstoryDAO (DAO: decentralized autonomous organization often used for cryptocurrency transactions) of which Sinclair is a founding member of, for arts funding for Black women and nonbinary femmes. Additionally, the art from Digital Diaspora will be displayed on the LinkNYC kiosk screens around New York City.
Sinclair states: “We’ve tried to give [the artists] as much of a platform as possible through this exhibition. We’ve tried to give them visibility through the public exhibition, through having their artwork all over New York City, through having one of the biggest NFT markets stand up and declare that they are behind this project and believe in bBack creativity and how we’ve been exploited in the past, understanding that and giving us a platform to combat that in the future … We’re working towards Afrofuturism.”
The exhibition, which came together in a matter of a few weeks, hosts vibrant paintings, photographs, illustrations and visual creations which imagine a future where Blackness and futuristic concepts collide. Kai Morton’s (artist name: KoiKai) contribution to the gallery is a piece called Nsoromma (Child of the Heavens). The piece features a purple Black woman with bantu knots in her hair and whose gold neck extends past the clouds, allowing her to look directly to the stars and a binary coded sky. “Afrofuturism is a portal that connects the past, present and future in a cyclical loop …” says Morton in her artist statement about the piece.

The artists of the show are separated by land and water, but threaded together by the internet, bonded in Blackness and united in art and Afrofuturism. “It sets a precedent for the evolution of Black culture in the genre of art. It allows us to move on from a constant outlook on past events as we’re being subjected to viewing a history full of Black trauma, something that we’re aware of and continue to experience … However, Afrofuturism is not an escape from the past, it goes above and beyond what we know and what we believe. Afrofuturism is a destiny,” said Jazmine Boykins, artist name BLACKSNEAKERS, an illustrator from North Carolina, in an artist statement. Latasha Alcindor’s (artist name LATASHA) artist statement, reads more succinctly: “Afrofuturism means Blackness in its oneness.”
Sinclair, a highly accomplished artist in her own right, entered the crypto art space in late February of this year, and noticed a familiar yet unsettling pattern. “When I first started in the NFT space, I really didn’t see many other Black women or Black artists in general. Also, when you look at who was being spotlighted by these platforms or people who are being consistently bought from, there was this [great] disparity. I felt like the Black artists in the space were not receiving their flowers,” Sinclair said. This prompted their decision to foster change in the space through curation. “In the traditional art world, which has been around for a very, very long time, there’s been time for those patterns and those systems of power to solidify and just become what it is. I think, with the NFT space, with it being so new and platforms still growing, figuring things out as well, and the community still growing, we are at this pivotal period, where we can break those patterns before they are set in. That’s why I think this project is so important; we’re saying that now Black art is important and giving them a platform now before we can’t get in the room to have these conversations.”

The art is radical. The space (or “metaverse”, as Sinclair says, using the parlance of the cryptoart NFT space) is radical. The frame, Afrofuturism, is radical. So is the goal, declares Sinclair:“The goal for this exhibition is equity. And equity will help feed into our liberation.” Even the date of the exhibition’s debut lends to the objective, observes the prodigious curator. “Although Juneteenth is about liberation from slavery in the United States … Juneteenth is such an important day when you think about Black liberation. I think that that’s what we’re aiming to do worldwide with this exhibition. We have artists from six different countries and we’re hoping that this will give them a level of autonomy and equity moving forward. In a way, that is liberation. That is freedom.”

The Digital Diaspora: Liberating Black Creativity will be on display at Superchief Gallery NFT from 18-20 June with an auction online

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