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Last year, the Dakar-based artist, designer, and curator Linda Dounia founded Cyber Baat to uplift digital artists of African descent on the blockchain. Structured as a DAO, the organization is made up of artists, art collectors, and curators who enable artists to collaborate on installations and exhibitions, as well as funding. In doing so, Cyber Baat aims to increase the representation of African artists working in Web3 and provide a supportive, secure, and sustainable avenue for digital business.
Whitewall got a firsthand look at Cyber Baat during Art Dubai this year in the fair’s inaugural digital art section. The presentation, “Sacred Roots,” featured work by 21 artists from the collective that represented 14 African countries. Through vibrant images presented on screens, the exhibition explored how ancient and contemporary culture influences each creator’s idea and conception of their own African identity.
Dounia shared with us how Cyber Baat is approaching the digital art market, what’s in her NFT collection, and what she’s working on this summer.
WHITEWALL: How did the works presented in Cyber Baat’s “Sacred Roots” show explore African identity, beyond the artist’s perspective?
LINDA DOUNIA: The goal of the show, curated by two of our members, Kenza Zouari and Ameni Abida, was to explore how ancient and contemporary cultural systems have influenced the participating artists’ conception of their “African” identity. Through the works presented, the curators were able to allow the Art Dubai audience to appreciate the breadth and variety of visual vernaculars implied in the term “African art.” In the context of digital art especially, I think the show challenged many preconceptions about who gets to be included in the digital art revolution enabled by the blockchain, and whether the monolithic “African art” category has a place in this revolution.
WW: In addition to founding Cyber Baat, you’re also an artist and a designer. How does being in the creative world you’re representing for others aid in your mission?
LD: I remember from a young age being curious about not just how things work but why they do in the way they do. That is why I became a designer as an adult. It allowed me to be part of the creation of small systems, and to grapple with whys and hows in my day-to-day. When I stepped into the NFT world, it was clear to me that it didn’t exist in a vacuum and was actually thriving in response the how the traditional art world operated. I became curious with art from a systemic lens. How did it come to be as we know it? What were its canons? What conversations were currently happening in response to its challenges? It helps that I get to experience some of the answers to these questions firsthand.
Being immersed in this world not just as a curious party but also an actively participating one means that I can form my perspective beyond academic conversations and take actions where I can feel a difference can be made.
WW: As a women-led company, how do you see the NFT world shaking up the gender divide in the art world?
LD: So far, the representation of women in the NFT world seems to follow a similarly alarming trend than the representation of women in the traditional art world. About 5 percent of women make up the NFT art space and according to The Times works by women make up just 7 percent of art in top galleries. I think we have a window of opportunity in the NFT space to learn from the traditional art world’s mistakes and change this early trend.
Women-led groups and projects in the space are definitely shaking up the idea that we have to follow the status quo, and many platforms have started to have a more intentional curatorial framework to ensure women are represented.
WW: What’s in your NFT collection? Do you hold anything with “diamond hands”?
LD: I have over two hundred NFTs in my collection across all chains. And aside from the occasional collectible that I will trade on the secondary market, I hold everything else with diamond hands. I collect works from an emotional standpoint, and I attach deeply to it—and the artist behind it. It’s hard for me to let them go. Some of my favorite pieces are In The Front House by Zoe Osborne, Orange by David Alabo, Environmental Enrichment by Ben Holmes, Camouflage by Rose Jackson, and That High Feeling by Moonsun Diamond.
WW: What are you working on this summer?
LD: My summer is kicking off with my first AI collection curated by the platform Quantum NFT. It’s 80 pieces made from a GAN trained on two thousand acrylic vignettes that I hand-painted last summer, around this time. The collection is called “Spannungsbogen.” It’s meant to be a conversation between artist and machine, a dialectical search for meaning between a thinking mind and a feeling one, and an ode to the quietly brewing resistances within us and throughout the universe. I think it is the first large-scale AI drop by an African woman in the history of crypto art.