While South African artist Fhatuwani Mukheli paints a portrait of a woman in his Johannesburg studio, he not only creates the work for him, but also a digital asset destined to adorn a virtual world.
Mukheli uses The Tree, an online marketplace for South African artists to promote and sell their art as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
“There’s a virtual world where people buy land,” Mukheli said, referring to the metaverse, a three-dimensional digital reality that tech giants like Microsoft and Facebook say is the future of the Internet.
“People own property there…and your art can be on those walls.”
Mukheli’s customers receive both the actual canvas and the NFT, while other artists on The Tree sell up to five limited edition NFTs for each piece, similar to digital prints. Mukheli has already made thousands of dollars using the platform.
“I think it’s important as an artist and creative person to always play where the ball goes and not necessarily where it is,” said Trevor Stuurman, one of four other artists currently presenting their work at The Tree.
Critics say blockchains, digital ledgers used to store information, are not climate-friendly because they drain computing power.
The Tree says it saves energy by running on Polygon, a blockchain that uses a fraction of the power, and offsets each transaction by sending money to Greenpop, an environmental organization that plants trees in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“It’s not just about art and artists and the story, it’s about making sure that this growth in technology for artists isn’t at the expense of the planet,” said Dan Portal, co-founder of The Tree.
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