“I've been going to barbershops since I was a kid…” begins the somber description of Osinachi’s first Async artwork. In “Choose The Man You Will Become”, thirty heads of African males with unique profiles and haircuts are evenly spaced out and presented to the collector in a neatly boxed grid. Each man is assigned its own Layer token and every Layer quickly went to a new home as the auctions flew by in the last week of March.
Osinachi is a Nigerian-based artist and is well-known for his signature look of cell-shaded and textured figures. In fact, majority of his digital artwork is produced using Microsoft Word, a skill he’s been developing before admission into The University of Nigeria, where he studied Library and Information Science/English. While he used to be in academia, Osinachi found his true calling with cryptoart and is now a full-time artist with his art featured in places like Artoja, Polartics and Kate Vass Galerie.
He got into cryptoart in early 2018, while surfing the internet. R.A.R.E was the first project he happened across and the team there quickly helped get his pieces featured at an international level, starting with Ethereal Summit in New York. From there, Osinachi discovered other crypto platforms like SuperRare and Async Art as they emerged.
When asked to elaborate more on his creative choices on how he constructed “Choose the Man You Become”, Osinachi began to paint a raw and nostalgic painting of memories from his past:
“Posters I got used to seeing in barbershops while growing up as a kid inspired ‘Choose the Man You Will Become’. I remember that my father would often send us to his favourite barber—his name was Ogboso. Apparently, Ogboso knew how to handle kids’ hair, but between dozing off on the chair and him shaking me awake, I spent my time taking in these posters, which carried so many heads and hairstyles.
There were conversations being held in Ogboso’s shop, but as a child, I didn’t pay attention to them. It was while I grew into an adolescent that I started to understand the nature of the majority of talks that men have in barbershops. The talks were sexist, misogynistic and homophobic. A girl could just walk by and the conversation would turn to how she is a prostitute, sleeping with various men. And, mind you, some of the men talking about her could reveal that they’ve slept with her and everyone would laugh about it.
So it was scenarios like this that made me try to connect barbershop posters with the idea of the choice to become a better man. No one was born sexist, misogynistic or homophobic. It was learnt, and we can choose to unlearn that, just as we can choose a hairstyle to go with."
The decision to go with thirty men is a matter of balance. What if fifteen men choose to remain their old selves (sexist, misogynist, homophobic)? Certainly, there has to be a number to balance that, a number that represents the opposite.
Yes, a haircut makes you look good, dyed hair makes you stand out. These two things make you seen. But, what are you doing with that visibility as a man? Is your masculinity so fragile that you think effeminate men aren't “men enough”?
If that's the kind of man you choose to become, despite the availability of a better choice, then you're most likely going into oblivion, to become unseen, and into a silhouette because the world has moved past that stage.”
True to form, Osinachi purposefully kept his Async piece untouched and unaltered as it went up for auction. It was important to him that the new owners of each man will be the first to make the defining choices in what kind of man they choose to become.
We have also heard various interpretations of the piece from others. Another artist pointed out that despite having the freedom to choose what kind of haircut/silhouette, the men are still “locked” within their cells. Giving only the illusion of attaining "freedom".
Osinachi weighs in on that accordingly:
“Freedom, they say, starts in the mind, but there’s no dismissing the fact that physical freedom is just as important as mental freedom. Sadly, not many persons in Africa have attained that. Most African governments say they’re a democracy, but in truth, they’re not. Citizens get arrested and bullied for criticizing the government; citizens are thrown in jail for no justifiable crime, etc. The law says that citizens have the right to dignity of the human person and freedom of assembly and association, but why do they strip members of the LGBTQ+ of their dignity? Why do they throw members of the LGBTQ+ in jail for congregating?
I also see the same in the African-American community in the US. The law says no one should be discriminated against based on the colour of their skin, yet people have found modern ways to foster racial hate. However, I feel that these shouldn’t stop us from choosing to become good people in society.”
As each of the Layers went to a new collector, we saw that some had quickly formed an emotional attachment to the Man they bought. We all look forward to what this piece will evolve to -- if there will be trading amongst owners, reselling, etc. As the artist emphasizes, it is a matter of choice, which is the central message of the piece...
...but, make the right choice.