Southeast Asian digital artists create online communities to drive regional adoption of NFTs

Ruanth Chrisley Thyssen has been keeping tabs on the news after learning that the Indonesian Navy’s KRI Nanggala-402 submarine was found missing on the morning of April 22. in the navy, later learned that the submarine had been found sunken and cracked in several parts, with its 53 crew members confirmed dead.

“I felt empathy for the crew members,” Thyssen said. “As the news was being shared on different social media platforms, I saw a video in which a young boy was throwing a tantrum to stop his sailor dad from going to work. The video really touched me,” said- he added.

The incident motivated Thyssen to create an NFT artwork to raise funds to support families affected by the tragedy. Along with his wife, Cindy Thyssen, the duo created an artwork named 53 Never Forgottena 53-second animation loop of a submarine floating among animated waves, overlaid with 53 sound layers.

The fundraiser, which began in late May, came at a time when NFTs were riding a tailwind from the sale of his work by digital artist Beeple. Daily: first 5,000 days for $69 million in March. Other works, like stay freeby activist Edward Snowden, sold for $5.4 million in April. Replicatorby artist Mad Dog Jones, sold for $4.1 million that same month.

Thyssen’s NFT fundraising project, however, has only raised about $2,000 as of November 8, below its minimum target of $3,000. “Sales hadn’t been so good. Most buyers and collectors in the NFT space come from the West. Many donors in Asia or even Indonesia haven’t entered the NFT space yet, and they don’t know how to contribute,” Thyssen said.

Although global NFT trading volume soared to $10.7 billion in the third quarter of this year, up 704% from the previous quarter, in Southeast Asia, barriers language restrictions, costly transaction fees and a lack of localized NFT communities have slowed adoption, according to Thyssen.

Despite the challenges, local artists see NFTs as a potential new source of income. Some of them, like Thyssen, have even decided to create online communities such as MetaRupa to foster education about the NFT space. Launched in June, the platform also serves as an NFT exhibition space. Since going live, he has amassed over 400 members on his Discord channel.

“The biggest problem facing Southeast Asian artists is that they don’t know where to start. Most onboarding information and resources are not available in local languages, and not everyone is fluent in English,” he said. MetaRupa members help others by translating relevant information into Indonesian, Thyssen added.

53 Never Forgotten honors the 53 families who have lost loved ones. Image courtesy of Ruanth Thyssen.

Break down the barriers

Malaysian artist Munira Hamzah has always had a passion for creating pixel art. She is also an avid fan of rock band Linkin Park. In February, Munira forayed into the NFT space with a creation named Mike Doge Twerking, which depicts Linkin Park lead singer Mike Shinoda and his wife Anna, dancing in animal costumes. The art was inspired by a scene from a Twitch livestream on Shinoda’s collaborative record, “Dropped Frames”. She was surprised to learn that the same Shinoda was the first buyer of her art for MYR7,400 (USD1,780) shortly after its release.

As she started creating more NFTs, Munira realized that only a few Malaysian artists were present in the space. “Most Malaysian artists were isolated. They didn’t know each other at all,” Munira, also known online as Mumu Le StanRecount KASIA.

Navigating crypto payments is one of the significant difficulties for artists who are new to the scene, not to mention the “gas fees” to mint NFTs, or the payment required to offset the computing energy to create a new block. of information, or contract, on a blockchain like Ethereum or Tezos. OpenSea, one of the most popular NFT marketplaces, charges gas fees to artists when they create a new account, as well as minting fees that artists or buyers cover, depending on the transaction when creating a new account. sale of an NFT. Minting fees on the Ethereum blockchain fluctuate based on supply and demand for processing power, ranging from $10 to $100. The platform also charges 2.5% of the final transaction as a service fee.

To encourage more artists to foray into the NFT space, in March Munira founded Malaysia NFT, a digital community that connects local creators through social media and Discord. The platform helps local artists by covering their first NFT minting costs on the Tezos blockchain, while also hosting “mentoring nights” to connect and educate people who want to create their first NFT. Minting new art on the Tezos Blockchain currently costs around 0.08 tez (XTZ), or $0.50 at the current exchange rate. Malaysia NFT is able to cover these expenses through donations, fundraising and sales of original NFTs, Munira said.

While local communities like Malaysia NFT and MetaRupa have helped break down barriers, building a strong and active community is not an easy process. Clara Che Wei Peh, founder of NFT Asia, one of the largest such communities in the region, said KASIA that the group has spent months gathering members and fostering a community culture.

“In the beginning, it was really difficult to research different NFT artists in Asia and connect with them. In February, I felt like the space was mostly Western-oriented,” she said “Discussing with some artists, especially those based in Singapore, we realized that people were looking for a space to feel a sense of belonging. A community to share resources and learnings, and to stay in touch with everything. what’s going on. We then created this community on Discord.

NFT Asia already has over 2,700 members. “We always encourage our members to drop their plans, attend and organize different events, and connect with other players. Every Monday we will be hosting game nights that don’t have to be NFT related. It’s just to foster a sense of togetherness,” said Peh, who is also an art scholar and curator.

NFT Adoption Will Grow in Southeast Asia

Although the NFT market is not yet mature in Southeast Asia, the region is becoming a crypto hub. Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand were ranked second, third, and fifth, respectively, in terms of crypto adoption out of 55 countries in 2020, according to data from Statista.

Thyssen believes crypto adoption will help foster the NFT market “very soon.” He also mentioned how the rapid rise of gambling games like Axie Infinity in the region could also attract more people to join the NFT space.

A series of crypto art events have also sprung up across Southeast Asia in partnership with local NFT communities, including Art Moments Jakarta, Art Fair Philippines, and CryptoArt Week Asia (CAWA). Malaysia NFT partnered with CAWA in July to launch the first-ever crypto art gallery in Malaysia, while 53 Never Forgotten was the first NFT art to be presented at Art Moments Jakarta 2020.

“The art style that comes from the creative community in Southeast Asia is so different from what we’ve seen in the West. So far we have seen a very specific, minimalistic and abstract type of work. But when you look at the works of some local artists, you can immediately tell that they were made by a Southeast Asian artist,” Thyssen said.

The “unique cultural influence” of Southeast Asian artists will bring more color to the NFT space, which has so far mainly focused on the West, Munira added.

“As more and more Asian artists bring their cultural influence and perspective to the NFT space, there will be a lot more diversity, not just in the [background] artists but in the content of the art itself,” she added.

Marilyn M. Davis