In our “Spotlight” series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and others who produce original and dynamic works.
In our latest piece, we spotlight a Nigerian multi-disciplinary digital artist, Timi Nathus a.k.a NAZQUIAT. Nathus shares his #Afrotroves NFT collection with us and explains it as follows: “Each NFT has been made from sacred artifacts that have been stolen before and haven’t set foot in Africa for hundreds of years “. Nathus and a cohort of digital artists recover the images and stories that have been stolen, and instead use them to empower and inform his own communities. Breaking the mold of traditional art and storytelling, Nathus’ decision to establish this collection as a series of NFTS alters the struggle for power and encourages celebrations of old and new.
We spoke with Nathus about failing your path to your destiny, the joy of expressing yourself through your own art, and the much-needed shift in perspective on art and digital media.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Describe your journey as an artist and how far you have come to get to where he is today.
I was an artistic kid, but my journey as a digital artist officially started in 2013 when I was in college. I really struggled academically – a semester into my sophomore year, I did my best but still struggled to perform. So I decided to learn how to make beats and then I became a kind of sound engineer. Emphasis on genre. I stumbled across design software and started watching tutorials online, practicing, and posting my work on Facebook and Instagram – back then it was just me expressing myself. It also led me to become a creative professional, learning skills such as graphic design, animation, video editing, and art/creative direction. These skills have allowed me to earn a living. I was doing all of this to pay the bills and have a career, but if I had been successful back then, I would have preferred to focus on digital art. It’s because it gave me great joy and a sense of self-esteem; being able to create something that people might like and connect with. In late 2020, I first heard about NFTs from a tech YouTube channel that I watch weekly. It was a really interesting concept for me, but I didn’t dive into it right away. I was busy with a lot of things at the time, and because I didn’t know anyone else who was doing NFTs, I had doubts about how I could make it in this “NFT” world, so I ‘ve put burner on the back of my mind as something I was going to go back to. I took the leap of faith in early 2021, and here we are today talking to each other. I stuck with that because it’s a great feeling to finally be able to live telling my own stories. Because in my experience working in the commercial world, artists are constantly telling other people’s stories even if the message isn’t true, but that’s what we do. Constantly helping co-ops get their message across can kill the real creative spark in some of us. No artist should ever feel speechless.
What are the central themes of your work?
The central themes of my work often come from two different branches of my mind. The first branch is my introspection on the nuances of human relationships & emotions. I’m always trying to better understand myself and everything around me, and I think my work reflects that. The second branch is to find the love within me and my identity as a man; a black man, about cherishing my heritage. These are my experiences and my will to evolve, my pain, my dreams, my pride, my fears and what that even means in today’s world. These are the main themes that you will find in my work.
You’ve dabbled in a variety of mediums – which one is right for you?
It’s about knowing which mediums would be the best to communicate my message of the day. From an artistic point of view, I rarely see these mediums as “different”. But we live in a material world and finances influence my media choices from time to time. For example, it’s much easier to fire up my laptop, run some software and start designing than, say, photography, where I would have to book a model, maybe get a stylist to bring his expertise, finding a location or worrying about location permits. All of this costs money sometimes. So, maybe the right answer is digital arts.
How has the pandemic affected you creatively?
The pandemic has actually allowed me to slow down and become more introspective. I would say that I grew a lot during that time, and I feel like that is reflected in my art and my personal life. I was able to end with many things – to grow, to forgive and to dream.
Can you talk about your use of colors and accessories in your art?
As a graphic designer, I can say that colors have their own language. They speak to us without us having to hear them, but we feel them and understand them. So my use of color depends on what I’m trying to say or the project itself. I want people to feel what I feel or what I want them to feel. I want them to understand me before they know it.
What prompted you to dive into the world of NFTs?
It has been observed over time that the digital arts have not really had the respect they deserve. And it’s very sad because we all interact with digital art on a daily basis. We see digital art in our films, music videos, magazine covers, billboards, books, cell phones…etc. Digital art surrounds us, but for a long time and still today to a large extent, traditional art marked as more credible and prestigious. I remember trying to get my art into some galleries in Lagos and Abuja and them saying “it’s not real art” because in their minds art had to be physical . It had to be made with paint, paper, wood or clay. But in reality, art, whatever the medium, should be considered the same. The process of creating anything is the same; it takes talent, it takes time. It takes a lot of love and input from your soul; you have to be inspired by the world around you.