Despite the lack of documentation, African history is replete with stories of people with inspiring achievements like Warrior Queen Amina. Although historians have conflicting theories about her life, the consensus is that she personified bravery and valiance in war.
Amina was born in 1533 to the ruler of Zazzau (now Zaria), and, unlike most women in her time, she had an unusual interest in warfare.
When Amina's brother, Karama, ascended the throne, she fought in all the major military campaigns he organised and displayed unparalleled military competence. After her brother's death, she was the undisputed choice to take his place as the Zazzau’s ruler.
She ruled for 34 years, most of which were spent leading wars and expanding her territory, dominating most of what is known as Hausaland.
Unlike Western legends and histories that have been turned into movies, Queen Amina’s story could be found predominantly in history books until its recent adaptation into a Netflix movie.
Interestingly, a team of Nigerians is creating a new home for the story on the blockchain.
Queen Amina on the blockchain
"We started thinking about transformative characters we can immortalise on the blockchain. We have stories, Africans have good stories, but we've just not heard about them.
“Like there are no movies about them as often as, say, Alexander the Great. We know about Napoleon and all but barely know about certain histories in Africa."
Venn Oputa, Co-founder of the non-fungible token (NFT) collection, Afrobubble, decided to create one of Africa's first NFT collections to put a piece of Africa on the blockchain. With the advent of Web3 as the new Internet age powered by blockchain, the Afrobubbule team hopes to carve out room for African history.
Be the smartest in the room
The decision to use one of Africa's most revered female warriors was a no-brainer for the Afrobubble team. On a call with Techpoint Africa, Oputa said,
“We asked ourselves, ‘Who can we immortalise?’, and it was Queen Amina. If you check her history, she is like Alexander the Great; she was this mighty queen who was conquering lands. She was even like the fundamental idea of feminism, a strong [and] empowered queen.”
The African warrior inspired the Afrobubble collection, which recreated the story, bringing the 16th Century warrior to the 21st Century, where she's the only one able to defeat a great, yet-to-exist evil.
For lovers of cartoons and comics, the story bears some resemblance to Samurai Jack, an animated American TV series about a Japanese samurai who gets sent to the future to destroy a villain from his past.
“So we went with Queen Amina but decided to do a couple of things, like adding our twist to the story and giving it a futuristic approach.
“Like Samurai Jack, this is a queen who was very powerful in the past. Now she's moved into the future where people know about her, but she doesn't know about them.”
The NFT collection that houses the futuristic version of Queen Amina's story has 3,000 NFTs or bubs — Africa-themed characters with different levels of rarity that influence the price of each NFT on the Solana blockchain.
How an NFT collection preserves history
While Queen Amina's story is inspiring, how the NFT collection preserves its history might be a bit fuzzy. Oputa, also known as Merlin on the Afrobbuble team, sees this as a call to curious people to go and learn more.
“We want people to know this character when they're going through history, even on the blockchain. We want them to be like, ‘Oh, who was Queen Amina?’ We have a rendition of Queen Amina. But they will be like, ‘Oh, let's go and search for her’, and that will lead to so much more.”
Beyond NFTs and history
According to Micheal Ugwu, Nigerian angel investor and NFT expert, branding is one of the many reasons people buy NFTs.
NFT collections are themed and have messages to pass, but that is not all there is to the creation of such collections. And Afrobubble wants to preserve her story for posterity.
Oputa explained that the collection is a marketing strategy to get more brands and individuals into the NFT space, creating an infrastructure that shows the benefits of creating value with NFTs.
“Afrobubble’s initial Genesis collection was a go-to marketing strategy for creating more digital collectables and stories from Africa.
“What we wanted to do, or what we're doing now, shows that you can launch a collection and attach something of value to it. But the end goal is infrastructure for space.”
A great example of NFTs as a marketing strategy is what the Web3 company, Yuga Labs, achieved with the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT collection.
The collection was used to raise money for Yuga Labs, becoming even more popular than its parent company.
The Bored Ape collection saw acceptance from celebrities and became so popular that other businesses built a brand off the collection.
Interestingly, Oputa revealed that even well-known brands have used the NFT marketing strategy and recorded success.
"A lot of retail in the West has come into this space. Adidas, NBA, Topshop, and other brands, have benefited from the NFT space by helping them improve their brand awareness.
“Adidas NFT generated over $22 million while an NBA Topshop generated over $700 million. Nike and Disney generate millions of dollars from their collections and give people benefits of holding this collection.”
The exciting thing about the NFT marketing strategy is that it simultaneously creates brand awareness and generates revenue.
From eCommerce to Afrobubble
Before co-founding Afrobubble, Oputa sharpened his marketing skills in the eCommerce industry.
“Before Afrobubble, I tried my hands in a couple of eCommerce-related startups and had an edge of competency in marketing for local and foreign brands. One was fabricsfair.com, where we were trying to connect fabric retailers with customers digitally.
“From the onset, I've always tried things to see what works. eCommerce has always been my competence, finding products, finding what people will like, selling to them, and finding a way to connect technology to that.”
His transition from eCommerce to NFTs and Web3 came in 2020 when COVID-19 hit and businesses were trying to find their footing. His fabric business thrived primarily on the availability of physical events and was on the brink of failing.
However, he did not turn to crypto and NFTs out of the blues. Oputa had been investing in cryptocurrencies since 2017, but as the 2020 bull run that saw Bitcoin reach an all-time high of $20,000 started, he paid more attention to the evolving crypto and blockchain space.
He noticed the space was evolving beyond speculation. Innovations were coming to the space, from decentralised finance (DeFi) to Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs); there was more use for crypto.
He was particularly excited by DeFi and the way it provided decentralised financial services to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. It wasn't until he learnt about NFTs that he discovered how his marketing skills would fit into the crypto space.
"If you look at it, it's still eCommerce; people trading NFTs back and forth, buying and selling digital assets, it's still eCommerce. So that was when I realised that Africa has good stories, we have a great culture that is pretty much unmatched, and I asked myself, ‘How do we bring that on the blockchain?’"
Oputa came up with the plan to create an African NFT marketplace, but creating a collection and growing from there was a more logical process, so Afrobubble was born.
The team, roadmap, and profits
Launched in October 2021, the collection has built a community of over 4,000 people on Discord. The team is working on creating 3D art editions that will help onboard even more people.
The Afrobubble collection was created by a core team of four, which included Oputa as the marketing expert, Gbemi Onakoya as the project manager, and Olatoye Sulaimon as the blockchain developer.
On the artistic side of things, Adefisola Onakoya created Afrobubble characters representing the different clans Queen Amina tries to call to order.
For Oputa, community building is the most exciting part of creating this collection. He is stoked that people are coming together to be a part of what the team has created.
“Seeing an idea come to life and people buying it is the most adrenaline rush you could ever get. You thought about something you felt there was a market for, went ahead, and did it.”
While a set of individuals usually create NFT collections, the community is always a big part of them, and it is essential to have a roadmap detailing the plans of the collection, especially in terms of financial gains.
The goal is for the Afrobubble team to build an infrastructure that helps other artists, brands, and businesses create NFT collections easily.
A good part of the profits will bring more players into the space.
The collection is working with popular Nigerian artiste, Bad Boy Timz, helping him onboard his community in the NFT space. And even with a significant downturn in the crypto market, Oputa believes providing value with NFTs will determine the survival of collections and the NFT space at large.