Nazquiat gives Nigerian artifacts new life through his brilliant use of photography and digital art.
Inatimi ‘Nazquiat’ Nathus is a digital artist and a prominent figure in the NFT space with his collections such as Afrotroves.
Through his unique blend of photography and digital art, Nazquiat takes listeners on a thought-provoking journey, exploring the significance of Nigerian artifacts and their connection to personal identity. Don't miss this inspiring conversation that sheds light on the transformative power of art and the importance of preserving cultural heritage.
Tune in to learn about the intersection of art, culture, and technology in Nazquiat's creations.
This is the tenth episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts.
*For the best experience, please use a headset/earphones.
[00:00:00] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Like in certain cultures in Nigeria, so some of these artifacts are like a cell phone. Being that these artifacts they hold our precious moments or whatever, but that was the way, you know. Back in those days, those people, that was the way they expressed themselves because not only was this quote unquote their cell phone something that was written or created for their essence.
[00:00:25] It was something that was also bound to their religion and so forth. And taking that from someone because imagine someone took your cell phone from you today, you would feel miserable. Now imagine doing that to someone when your cell
phone is also tied to your religion, is tied to your families like... especially the Benin Bronzes.
[00:00:50] Adrian Jankowiak: Hey, Nazquiat, it's awesome to have you on the show. Thank you so much for being here. First of all that name, it's a question we like to start the show with. I'd love to know what is the meaning behind your artist's name, and then we'll also find out the meaning and the reason behind your real name.
[00:01:09] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Okay, first and foremost, my real name is Inatimi Nathus. My surname, nobody really knows meaning of it. I think it might stem from something colonial but like my name, Inatimi, that's more like the one that God wants leave. Something like that. Something along those lines, you know? Me finding the name Nazquiat... okay, back in school cause like secondary schools, uni, people would call me by my surname and they would shorten it to Naz, you know, so that was how the Naz parts was there. And you know, like me finding art and really finding a lot of
inspiration in Jean-Michel Basquiat.
[00:01:51] What I really take from him is not his style, but is his courage in, you know, in a way whereby he's able to like depict... how do I say, the confidence to find his own style and to not care about how it looked because you, you can imagine like early nineties, late eighties, you know, him moving around from gallery to gallery trying to get people to like buy into his work because his work isn't the kind of work that the average person would look at and be like, oh my God, this is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. So I feel like there's a lot of balls to like, find your own style, find your own confidence in what you do and then, you know, go with it.
[00:02:27] And that was why I was looking for in my life. Cause like at that time I had
already started like a lot of self doubt in me, you know, and me taking on that name was pretty much kind of reminding myself that I can be who I want to be. I can find the courage to say what I want to say in any medium in which I choose.
[00:02:47] So that was pretty much it.
[00:02:49] Adrian Jankowiak: Thanks for sharing that. It seems like you've found a style and even an output, a format through NFTs. You've recently come to light for many people through your NFTs and through what they're telling, the stories they're telling. So let's start with those. Maybe you can tell us about your NFT journey.
[00:03:10] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Oh yeah, my NFT journey is funny because NFTs are something that they kept on coming like before the boom in 2021. Since like 2017, I kept on hearing about NFTs and the idea of it was something so interesting to me that I wanted to do it. But the first time I actually said, okay, I will do it. That was when the pandemic first hit and back then, yeah, to mint just one item, maybe you could spend
maybe something between like $200 to like $400. And I was just, I saw that, I saw that financial, you know, block in front of me. Cause like pandemic is going on, nobody's making a lot of money.
[00:03:57]And I'm like, do I really want to spend all this money just on one item, and
then I don't know if I'm going to sell or not, you know? Once again, I pushed it to the back burner and I focused on other things I was doing. Then I got this very beautiful job, remote job, and I was like, you know, enjoying myself, you know?
[00:04:16] Then that company started losing some clients. They were having a bad year and they had to let go of some people and I was one of those people they had to let
go. And there I was again, looking at NFTs, I'm seeing the boom now. Cause I've been looking at this thing for like a couple years now and I'm seeing it like grow in its popularity and I was like, you know what?
[00:04:38] Fuck it. Let me just do it now. You know, I borrowed some money from my sister. I told her that I'll pay you back, which I did. And you know, here we are today.
[00:04:49] Adrian Jankowiak: So, what are these NFTs? How did you decide on the subject matter and the creation of them?
[00:04:56] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Oh, a lot of times it's from my life experiences, things that inspire me. Like one of the most beautiful things about like my N F T journey was around the time that I finally took the name Nazquiat, I said, okay, this is going to be my artist name. Yeah. I did like a tribute piece to Jean-Michel Basquiat. And that was the first piece that sold. So that was actually like really beautiful. And that was one thing too, because I couldn't afford to, you know, pay the minting fee. I went on a different platform called Mintable, where you could sell for free.
[00:05:27] And I started putting up some of my older works there. And then I made this new work in contribute to Jean-Michel and then boom, that sold. But funny thing was
that like three days after I got hacked and I lost all that money... which, you know, that was the proof of concept for me that I felt like, okay, this is something I can do.
[00:05:49] Because I told myself that, okay, I wasn't going to spend that money until I
know I can sell something. I did the first sale on Mintable. When I finally made that sale and I got hacked. I then, you know, borrowed money from my sister and told her that, okay, no, I can sell, gimme some money.
[00:06:05] I will sell, I'll pay you back. That was actually how the events went. I just
forgot all about that for a second.
[00:06:12] Back to my work is like just a bunch of things that... what's it called that
inspire me. Whether like from life experiences, things that inspire me and you know, things I feel. I'm actually very drawn to like my photography, right. These moments, because photography is kind of peaceful for me.
[00:06:28] I don't know, it's just where I find some peace but like digital art is like
where I began. That's what I've been doing for a really long time, even before I could make sales. It's just something I do. I make like a design or something and I print it out and give it to my friend for like a birthday or something, you know, stuff like that.
[00:06:44] I've always been doing that even before the N F T stuff.
[00:06:47] Adrian Jankowiak: That's really cool to hear. I think photography for me has always been therapeutic. It's great as a hobby and it's a great combination with being able to bring some of those elements into other works as well.
[00:07:02] And what are the stories behind the pieces that you've been creating?
[00:07:07] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: I would say stories that I think I've been working on so far are things about self, you know, love, you know a lot of things that are very introspective in terms of just someone's human experience. Mine in particular. And also like little by little I've also been going outside of myself and looking around me and like the Afro Troves in particular is one collection that has to do with my culture, you know, culture all around me and all of that. And I have, you know, some really good things
that are in the court right now, I'm just trying to make sure, you know, we wrote them out nicely and all of that.
[00:07:44] But yeah, it's been great.
[00:07:46] Adrian Jankowiak: And the pieces themselves, the objects that you are featuring there, what are the objects?
[00:07:53] Tell us about the artifact.
[00:07:55] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: So, this is the thing. Upon starting my N F T career, maybe a couple first sales and I was actually like really thrilled and I was like I really wanted to do something great. And I was searching for inspiration all around me, but I wasn't really getting anything that was really hitting me that I was like, okay, I was going to go through with this one. I said, you know what, sometimes you need to check
the past and then see what you can find. So I started doing internet searches and stuff and then I said, okay, you know what? Let me check like on old African art. Let me see what I can do. What I can find, what I can see.
[00:08:31] And I went down this rabbit hole of, you know, seeing like different auction
sites and Okay. I'm from a tribe in Nigeria called Ijaws, so like, I've never really seen Ijaw art, but it hasn't actually occurred to me that I've never seen art from my own people. But like upon going down this rabbit's hole looking through numerous auction sites and all of that, and like catalogs of like other auctions that have happened in the past.
[00:08:59] I started seeing stuff from my culture that I have never seen before and this was actually like very depressing for me at first glance. But like somehow, as I kept on finding all these things, I just kept on saving a lot of the photos I was seeing, I just kept on saving them. And then from just only my own culture, I started seeing things from, you know, other tribes in Nigeria, other tribes all around Africa. Whether it be Kenya, Tanzania, you know, like so many other like tribes, so much missing art and like so many people don't even know that these things exist.
[00:09:35] And it's actually sad because a lot of these things, they're personal items.
They are fragments of a full story that hasn't been told. And it's really sad, but I just felt compelled to somewhat do something with these pieces. Make it something of value and that's how the collection Afro troves became.
[00:09:58] Adrian Jankowiak: So, you said that personal artifacts and what were they specifically?
[00:10:04] And what uses did they have? What human stories did they have?
[00:10:08] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Okay. For instance, now. Yeah. Like in certain cultures in Nigeria, so some of these artifacts are like a cell phone. Being that these artifacts they hold our precious moments or whatever, but that was the way, you know. Back in those days, those people, that was the way they expressed themselves because not only was this quote unquote their cell phone something that was written or created for their essence.
[00:10:35] It was something that was also bound to their religion and so forth. And taking that from someone because imagine someone took your cell phone from you today, you would feel miserable. Now imagine doing that to someone when your cell
phone is also tied to your religion, is tied to your families like... especially the Benin Bronzes.
[00:10:57] A lot of those pieces were on the walls of the palace and they told the story of how this kingdom began. And with each generation that passed more plates were
added to those walls but those things were just ripped off those walls and scattered all around the world, you know. And it's sad because as they are, they've lost their meaning, they've lost their power. And even if they do bring them back they don't have that as strong a connection to the people who are there today because they haven't had a chance to build upon those figures. It's like your foundation, it's only of value when something is built upon, let me put it that way. You least get to see this beautiful skyscraper once people have built upon that foundation.
[00:11:44] And I think that's one of the things that is done to us, and I feel having a way to revive these pieces in culture or in bringing them into like not just... and this is one thing I was very particular about it. I don't know if these pieces will ever come back to Africa but like I want them to be able to live somewhere because it's fine.
[00:12:08] Okay. There are some that we might be able to see now on the internet, but
there are some that are perhaps probably living in someone's living room or their library or something. And we're never going to see those. Those are in private collections and all of that, you know, and it's something that having this back in the world and having young people be able to see and be able to interact with these pieces even more is a win for me, I feel.
[00:12:34] Adrian Jankowiak: And what was your process of researching these pieces and how were some of them taken? You mentioned private collections, were they also in museums? Do you know where they were taken?
[00:12:47] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Not exactly. I don't really know, but I was able to look through catalogs in terms of like, okay, this is what we are auctioning tonight. You get like those catalogs that we were probably handed out to people who came for the events and you know, they photographed them. And those catalogs, you know, those were some of the things I was able to look through and find some of these pieces that, oh wow, these are pieces that, you know, I wasn't able to see who bought them where they are.
[00:13:16] You know, some of them were in France, some of them are in Germany, you
[00:13:19] Adrian Jankowiak: Have you managed to talk to any of the buyers of your own art with the pieces? Have you had any personal conversations with them?
[00:13:27] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Oh, no, no, no. Nobody has reached out to me. Nobody has talked to me or I think that would be something that would be quite interesting to hear their own perspective on all of that.
[00:13:39] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. It'd be interesting to find out how people relate also to the art. How many collections of NFTs have you got out and how has that been over time and what's in the works now?
[00:13:52] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Hmm. I think so far I've had let's say between 10 to 15 different collections, I have a decent amount of things I really put out there. To be honest, I actually like hold myself back from putting so much stuff out there. Cause I kind of want to give people time to breathe. I don't want to just keep on like, dropping stuff consistently, you know, and I'm trying to like be more selective in what I put... I don't want to put out everything I make, but just trying to give out like the best quality of stuff I think possible.
[00:14:29] Adrian Jankowiak: Great. What's next in the works with your NFTs? What's the next collection or the next couple?
[00:14:35] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Well, I'm actually thinking about dropping a sequel to the Afrotroves collection. I think because one, one of the nice things I did with the initial Afro-Troves collection was I involved different artists and their contributions were very, very needed. And that was the whole goal behind the project.
[00:14:53] It was about like finding a way to get other people involved and back then when I had dropped the project, not as many Nigerian artists were in the N F T space. And that was my own way of trying to like bring them into the N F T space. I got them involved and they got paid and they were able to also launch their careers in the NFT space, you know, both men and women. It was a very beautiful thing.
[00:15:19] I was, I was trying to get some more artists from around Africa but like
unfortunately some people weren't able to deliver with deadlines and stuff. But I feel it'll be really nice to really get more people involved because one of the things that we tried to do was subtly try and capture different elements of different cultures, like from where the artifact was from. We tried to capture different elements of those cultures very subtly, nothing too loudly, but just very subtly, because we might be misinterpreting stuff, so we don't want to offend anyone. So, we go for like a right amount of stuff but things that were more closer to our cultures, we're able to do a whole lot more with those. I feel like it'll be nice to really get like more African artists involved. And I think that would be a beautiful collaboration, honestly.
[00:16:11] Adrian Jankowiak: Hmm, for sure. Have you got any advice for artists getting into the market right now and trying to learn, combine that art, bring what they've been doing in traditional art forms maybe into the N F T space?
[00:16:26] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. When I first started creating arts mostly because like I thought that's cool. And I was looking for a way to tell myself I was good at something. I just kept on being drawn back to things within the creative fields and all of that. And I remember like upon graduating university, I made this huge collection. It was called Grief. And I remember trying to talk to different
artists in the traditional art space, trying to talk to those artists, and trying to talk to a couple curators and stuff.
[00:17:01] And nobody was really interested in taking on digital arts in their spaces at
that time. This was like in. 20 15, 20 14, 20 15, nobody was interested in it. So I kind of put that on the back burner for a really long while and I feel, cause there's so much bureaucracy and you have to know this person, know that person.
[00:17:22] It's a nice way for someone to start their art careers, the NFT space. It's a
really nice way for you to build your brand, start your art career. From there, you can be able to take it, you know, the sky is the limit. You can go anywhere you want to go from there.
[00:17:38] Adrian Jankowiak: How did that journey look for you of going into, first of all, traditional art and digital art and then moving Into the NFT space. Where did you begin?
[00:17:48] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: It started from traditional arts but it's quickly went into digital arts. It was just digital arts I was making just for fun, just to express myself. And then, you know, I got offered to start doing more things towards a design perspective in terms of like party posters, oh, logos, and, you know, stuff like that. Then social media... boom came along a social media post and all of that. Like that was how
this whole thing began.
[00:18:21] I've always had my hand in different places, photography, motion graphics, you know, stuff like that. I've always had my hand in different places. But the thing
about it is that we all know that the advertising industry is one that can be very draining.
[00:18:36] And what really pushed me into coming back to art was mostly because like I had felt really drained and it felt like the thing I love doing wasn't mine anymore. It was someone else's because when you are working in an advertising space, you're not telling your story. You're telling someone else's story. They're telling a brand story, so it's none of your preferences or whatever are being put at the forefront. It's all about the customer, you know, it's all about their story. Making sure they're communicating to their own customer base.
[00:19:10] That's what it's all about. So for me, I felt so many years of that had kind of
drained me emotionally because this was something I did for fun. And that was when I think photography for me now became like an outlet of something I still had for myself. And you know, sure enough, I finally came back again to doing digital arts and that was actually, Afro troves.
[00:19:34] Adrian Jankowiak: You mentioned photography, that's something you keep doing. Do you ever go back to traditional art? Is that something you keep exploring as well?
[00:19:42] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Oh, no, no. I don't know. I think I'll be really bad at it right now... you know, you have to sharpen your sword, you know? But yeah, maybe, who knows? Maybe it's something I'd go back to, but yeah. There was a small stint of graffiti... being a graffiti artist.
[00:20:00] Maybe that's something I'll go back to. I don't know.
[00:20:02] Adrian Jankowiak: Uhhuh. Combining traditional digital, all of that together. Yeah, for sure. Have you got any other kind of stories that you'd really like to get out there? Points, anecdotes, or things for people to remember.
[00:20:18] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Only thing I can say is, just try. A lot of times we have our dreams, our goals, you know, all these things that we would like to accomplish but sometimes we are holding back and telling ourselves that, oh, I need to get this first. I need to do this. You know, we are building walls or we are building this checklist before we start to do the things we want to do. Only thing I can tell people is like, bro, just try. Like that's all you have to do. It don't have to be perfect the first time you do it.
[00:20:48] Like just try. That's all you need to do, man. And it doesn't matter. Like, you
know, I know some people don't have the most supportive people all around them but trust me, sometimes the only person you need is yourself and you just have to be able to love yourself enough to just try. That's all I have to say, man.
[00:21:07] On starting this journey, it was something whereby I was struggling in school. I was looking for, you know, I'd given it my all and I said, yo, I don't think it's something I can be able to like be good at. Although I never give up in school. I graduated but I just kept on finding something else I was good at. And it went from trying to be a music producer and people telling me that your beats are trash or moving to sound editing and then finding myself doing sound engineering for like dance groups and whatever, so that they could be able during their performances and all of that. And you know, working at a radio station. From like doing sound editing, I found myself at the school radio station doing DJing and started doing graphics, started shooting videos, started doing... it's all about just trying.
[00:21:59] It doesn't mean that you have to be like the best about something, but like,
try expand yourself. Cause so many things that I've experienced, all that knowledge is always in here. It's all in here and it'll surprise you how valuable the most random things you learn will come back and be of importance and whatever thing you are trying to embark on and yeah man, that's all I have to say. Just try man. Just try.
[00:22:24] Adrian Jankowiak: I love that because I always tell people the same thing. You never know where knowledge gained is going to be useful for you. What's an example of something that you didn't know would be useful to you, but it turned out to be?
[00:22:37] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Oh, okay. I was doing a lot of these mixing sound engineering for like a dance group. They do a concert every year, as in back when I was in uni, they do a concert every year. I found myself being like lead technical person in that dance group. And then upon like working in the advertising agency, I was doing production management for like video shoots and all of that. I felt right at home.
[00:23:01] I didn't feel out of place because it was like, I've been here before. It's all about making sure everybody gets what they want, when they need it, how they need it, and that's pretty much it.
[00:23:11] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah. And it can also go much broader into different industries and that's also what you mentioned in terms of now is such a great time to be a creative or to be someone who just uses creative tools for pleasure because we can try everything. You can do so many things on one device digitally that you can, you can be a movie director and a graphic designer the same day where that was a stretch years ago.
[00:23:37] So amazing. Thank you.
[00:23:39] Inatimi 'Nazquiat' Nathus: Thank you very much. Thank you guys for the great work you're doing over there.