NFT studio helps local artists sell original creations on crypto platform

Umba Daima’s brand Black NFT Art gets the unknown noticed.

By Allison Joyner

As cryptocurrency becomes more popular and media is increasingly digitized, Umba Daima bridges the gap between up-and-coming artists with buyers who are searching for authentic masterpieces. 

“We originally started in 2020 as an eCommerce store,” said Iris Nevins, co-founder of Umba Daima. “After we launched, we started learning about NFTs through some friends and decided to pivot. It didn’t take us long to realize that selling art in the traditional art market was challenging.” 

Umba Daima co-founder, Iris Nevins speaking during The Crossroads Exhibition Brunch in September 2021.
Credit: Umba Daima

Meaning “create forever” in Swahili, Iris and co-founder Omar Desire, Umba Daima’s goals are to create engaging multimedia content, amplify Black leaders and artists and create opportunities for them in the NFT space.

“We saw NFTs as a great opportunity for not only the artists that we work with but also for our business who entered a new space in the early stages and have a high impact,” said Nevins.

According to Forbes, NFT, or non-fungible token, is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, and videos. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency and are generally encoded with the same underlying software as many cryptos.

“Every single token,” said Nevins, “has a unique identity on the blockchain and that allows you to tie unique assets to it.”

The uber-rich are cashing in on them. Last year, an estimated $4 billion came in NFT sales alone. 

NBA athlete Stephen Curry, late-night host Jimmy Fallon, and Atlanta-based rapper Future have paid large amounts of money for Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFTs. Actress Eva Longoria and TV creator and showrunner Shonda Rhimes have also jumped into the NFT craze and bought from illustrator Yam Karkai from her World of Women (WoW) NFT collection of thousands of diverse female avatars. 

Reese Witherspoon has taken it a step further and became the first star to change her Twitter profile picture to a blue-skinned, blonde-haired WoW avatar late last year.

One of Umba Daima’s brands, Black NFT Art, introduces African American artists to the NFT space and helps companies and public figures engage with them in a thoughtful and meaningful way. 

“When it comes to Black art in particular,” Nevins said, “I think the reason we started Black NFT Art was that the NFT space success largely comes from, of course, having great art but also having a great network.”

One artist Umba Daima works with is Atlanta native Stephen Lotus. He started in 2018 creating abstract digital artwork and posted them to his Instagram page and his followers loved it. 


Digital artist, Stephen Lotus
Credit: Stephen Lotus

“I make all of my artwork on my phone,” said Lotus using mobile apps that would help him manipulate his photos to his intergalactic-inspired creations. So far, Lotus has sold two NFTs and sold his third one during a Black NFT Art gallery in September.

“I never studied art,” Lotus said. “My brother studied art and he taught me some things like form and color.”

Calling himself the “Celestial Voyager,” Lotus’s works are individual entries from a log of his cosmic journeys. “Stuff I’ve come across on my journey through the stars,” he said. 

Both Nevins and Lotus say now is a great time to buy and sell NFTs and Umba Daima can help future creators or investors find out more about getting started in this new industry.

“There’s been several companies and brands from Netflix to celebrities that have been able to find artists to work with through our feed,” said Nevins. Umba Daima is also doing events three to five times a week and offers educational classes online through their Twitter account for those interested.

“We have a discord community where people come in and ask questions, share their art for feedback, connect and build relationships,” said Nevins.

Lotus suggests that artists create collectible series like BAYC and WoW with different variations of the same piece.

“Hyaline Hyperdrive” Created by Stephen Lotus
Credit: Stephen Lotus

“The point of making the NFTs is to sell them,” said Lotus. “You want to make a statement but if you’re going to mint them and spend money to do that, that’s an investment. So at the end of the day, it’s going to be about how much money you’re making and what is your return on investment.”

“If somebody is an artist or collector who wants to learn [about NFTs], I would highly recommend joining our discord,” Nevins continued. “If someone is a collector, I would recommend joining our rise collectors club and buying one of our NFTs and start participating there. But, most importantly, it is to get on Twitter and start following people in the NFT space because that’s where the community resides. So follow people and check out what they’re saying. Check out what they’re posting. Check out what they’re talking about and that would help someone get up to speed pretty quickly.”


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