Two-time Oscar-nominated actor and humanitarian Djimon Hounsou and acclaimed, Brooklyn based performance and visual artist Láolú Senbanjo have launched a premium NFT Collection, “Time to Heal,” in support of the Djimon Hounsou Foundation.
“My vision with the Djimon Hounsou Foundation is to champion a visceral connection between the countries of the African diaspora and the motherland and to heal the wounds that slavery left behind,” said the Beninese-American actor.
Today, more than 200 million Afro-Descendants are dispersed all over the world and most feel disconnected from their motherland, roots, and culture.
Hounsou’s organization also combats modern-day slavery and human trafficking. While many people think that slavery is a relic of the past, it is not. According to the Global Slavery Index, 40.3 million people still live in modern-day slavery today. This is four times as high as the number of slaves sold and shipped from Africa to the Americas during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The “Time to Heal” NFT Collection
The “Time to Heal” artwork auction, which launches November 10 the Binance NFT Marketplace and runs through November 15, draws from both artists’ desire to champion the idea of reconciliation and reconnection.
It consists of five portraits featuring Hounsou as a canvas onto which Láolú applied his famous body art known as the “Sacred Art of the Orí.” This artform honors the humanity and spirituality of Hounsou and taps into his Orí—meaning his soul, essence or destiny in Yoruba culture.
Having collaborated with many artists, including Taraji P. Henson, Lupita Nyongo, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beats and Beyoncé in her 2016 Grammy-winning “Lemonade,” we were excited to sit down with Láolú to learn more about this exciting new collection and collaboration with Hounsou. We discussed the creative process of making an NFT and explored the greater implications of NFTs for artists in general and African artists more specifically.
The Process of Creating the NFT was Raw and Very Personal
Over the last several months, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have exploded as the shiny new crypto-asset du-jour for investors of all levels. Artists like Láolú who are recognized “offline” and “IRL,” are crossing over into the digital world, to capture this growing market opportunity. Láolú shared the fascinating process behind the creation of the NFT art with us.
The point of origin for his art, called the Sacred Art of the Orí, starts with taking patterns, codes and symbols from Yoruba mythology, and adapting to his subject. For Hounsou, that was the Orisha god Shango who is known for charm, peace, masculinity, energy, beauty and justice.
“I use the white paint to contrast the Black…I use the melanin as the paint, to trap darkness, and so the art is meant for melanated skin,” Láolú explains. After painting him, taking the pictures of Hounsou was “very primal, very raw and very very personal”.
After sending the images to the Binance team, the minting starts and the work is broken down into code. Láolú continues, “It’s something that I’ve never done before…now I’m fascinated that people can own a digital piece of the Sacred Art of the Orí art form.”
A Celebration of Afro-Futurism
Láolú contextualized the importance of African art being part of the technology revolution that is underway with crypto and NFTs.
“This is really a celebration of Afro-Futurism, because the art recognizes the past, celebrates us in the present and the future,” he says. “A lot of times when speaking about fine art, artists on the Continent are not even considered and have to play catch-up. But in this crypto world, we are putting our foot on the ground.” And what is even more exciting, is the educational exposure and opportunities for people everywhere to experience art that previously was confined to museums or galleries in the West.
“Now we can experience culture in these new forms…in the Metaverse,” he says
A New Frontier for Artists with NFT Royalty Payments
When asked about the greater economic implications for NFTs amongst artists, Láolú shared that the technology is “genius” when it comes to creating value for the artist. We talked about the incredible opportunity for visual artists receiving a percentage of profits in royalties from NFT artwork that is resold, much like musicians receiving royalties from copyrighted work played on the radio. Artwork on the secondary market at auctions, like Christie’s and Sotheby’s often sells for millions of dollars, without any financial benefit to the original artist.
More than 70 countries, including the UK and EU countries, provide for resale royalties to visual artists, but the United States has been slow in adoption. NFTs functionally bring the lagging rights in the U.S. up to global standards, with the rest of the world, as most NFT marketplaces offer creators the opportunity to add a royalty that is coded into the smart contract on the blockchain (5 – 10% is standard).
Láolú explains, “NFTs solve this problem for a lot of us. If someone is reselling your work, you get an alert. The royalty is embedded in the code, so you always get something anytime your work is traded….and the more the artist gets value and compensated for the work, you set the artist free…It’s like a new frontier.”
How You Can Bid on the “Time to Heal” NFT Collection
Art collectors and crypto-traders who are interested in owning a piece of Láolú’s very first NFT collection, in collaboration with Djimon Hounsou, need to open a cryptocurrency account on Binance, https://www.binance.com/en/nft and bid for the artwork, from November 10 to 15. Trades will be accepted in BNB, the cryptocurrency coin that powers the Binance ecosystem.
To watch the full interview with Láolú, stream it here.