When the stories of Africa and Africans started to be told to the world, western writers started telling them, maligned stories of an uncivilised race.
When African stories were first told by western invaders, they were tales of an uncivilised race. That tradition of storytelling has gone on to have significant consequences on how Africans have been treated in the world. But at the turn of the twenty-first century, that narrative has been changing.
Africans have been using various mediums to present various perspectives about their history. When Web3 and the metaverse began to pick up in the past few years, Africans have latched onto it, to present different stories about their history.
We’ve had the Benin Bronze NFT Exchange Project which used NFTs to spread the story of the Benin Punitive Expedition of 1897 when the colonial masters invaded the Oba’s palace and took its bronzes.
Then we have the Grammy-nominated music producer, LeriQ who is using NFT to show the resilience of Africa, with his Rough Diamonds collection. Now, a new NFT project has arrived.
What is Uhuru NFT about?
The Uhuru NFTs – a new Web3 company that just announced its first collection, Uhuru NFT- Freeman Collection, says its mandate is telling African stories by celebrating historical figures and cultural monuments that have moved the needle in history.
Aso Obinna Eke and Sandra Onyeka the founders of the company had spent years as asset traders before they came together to start their NFT and metaverse-focused company.
To understand what propelled Obinna, who first conceived of the idea and invited Sandra onboard to start the project, you must first understand the events that surrounded the advent of cryptocurrency and specifically Bitcoin in Nigeria and why many Nigerians felt they missed out on it.
The year is 2016, and this Ponzi scheme had come to town. MMM, it was called. It promised unsuspecting Nigerians thousands of Naira in quick profits. Within days, users got on the platform and got out thirty per cent richer. Then it crashed. Millions of naira in school fees, and house rents were all lost in the Ponzi scheme pyramid.
It was as Nigerians were recovering from the shock of the losses that Bitcoin came. Crypto bros begged Nigerians to invest. Many refused. As you might know, those who invested made thousands of dollars from their investments. And so when conversations around NFT started at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, Nigerians would not let it slip through their fingers.
“I was very very open to looking at new ideas after I missed Bitcoin,” Obinna said in a recent interview with Technext.
But even then he wouldn’t just plunge in without his necessary research. With a background in finance, specifically asset trading he knew what to check out for.
What are the use cases? Is it sustainable? Will it collapse? Can it collapse?
“We realised that it’s a tech that’s here to stay,” he said, “because it was going to service the metaverse.”
How did they build it?
The first thing he did was buy the domain name. Then in February he brought his colleague and friend Sandra on board and swore her to secrecy. “Let’s change the narrative of Africa,” he said to her.
“He was really worried about sharing the idea,” Sandra said. “Being an asset trader, I’ve been hearing so much about NFTs and crypto. When he told me, I thought he was up to something. It didn’t take me so long. I called him back, we were still much in an idea stage,” she added.
Together, they began to first build their community which is now 12,000 strong. Travelled to historical sites in West Africa, and then they brought another founder on board, a designer based in Kenya before they started their product creation and conceptualisation.
“And then we started working on this,” Sandra said. “What story do we want to tell people? How do we take this thing beyond just an NFT?”
The goal of the Uhuru NFTs team is not just to create NFTs, but as the name of the company suggests, to build their own Uhuruverse, a digital space with Afrocentrism as its backbone, dotted with African cultural landmarks, as a means to challenge the narrative about Africa.
“We started as just an NFT collection, but we needed to sustain the community which is what we’re primarily focused on, and we needed to look for ways to create value,” he said.
The Freeman Collection, their flagship product and first collectable, features portraits of all men with hands raised up to reveal broken chains, as a means of telling the story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
They hope that with the project they can also push for the adoption of NFT and the metaverse in Nigeria. “We are creating and pushing for adoption in Africa,” Obinna said. “Africa has always been on the consumption end of tech. We don’t just want to be consumers. We want to drive that adoption, where African culture and heritage will be presented in an immersive environment.”
What are the long-term plans?
Currently, they are Bootstrapping the project. But they have big plans of raising money and rolling out new collections that will celebrate historical black figures.
One of the inspirations that they have on their mood board is the quote from George Santayana; “Those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
“It’s about time we tell our own stories ourselves, that is why it’s important,” Sandra said. “It’s about freedom.”
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