Hanifah Walidah Curating A New World
This week’s feature is on curator Hanifah Walidah. Hanifah has been a wonderful addition to the NFT space. The self-described “microphone-wrecka” is known as a singer, poet, rapper and musician. She recently entered the space and is the curator of the show Pieces of a Dream. Hanifah is passionate about art and encouraged by the possibilities that the NFT space holds for BIPOC artists and Black artists, specifically.
Tell me about yourself. Who is Hanifah Walidah?
I am Hanifah Walidah. I am an artist who is now a curator in the NFT space. I think that I’ve always been a curator. I’m also an artist of many facets and disciplines. Over the past 30 years I’ve worked in music, theater, and documentary film. Most people know me via my music. I spent most of my life onstage whether it was in front of thousands of people or in front of students. I think being onstage is where I am at my happiest and for me, NFT curation is like a stage for me but now I’m hosting others so they can do their thing. The all-encompassing thing that I am is a storyteller and I use a lot of mediums to do that. Curation is just one.
When did you first hear about NFTs and what was your initial impression?
I first heard of NFTs at the beginning of 2021 when I was invited onto Clubhouse. I was in a music room and I heard a dancer talking about it. He was speaking about the free agency of artists and that struck me because I’ve always been interested in technology. I did the first hip hop magazine online and while I didn’t quite understand it the way he described it at the time it made me intrigued. I did my due diligence and went on YouTube and went down the rabbit-hole and at some point it clicked. And once it clicked, I immediately knew how I wanted to show up in the space.
What was that moment like when it clicked for you?
When it clicked for me, it was less about the blockchain and more about NFTs. I’m still learning about the blockchain but what I like about NFTs was this idea that you can encase your art in this smart contract that can follow you throughout your career and that even though the art may touch different hands, it can still be connected to you. The idea that you can put work out there and your grandkids can benefit from work that you do today resonated with me. Also the removal of the middleman who have traditionally taken rights from the artists.
What particular benefits do you NFTs hold for artists — music and otherwise?
For me, it’s reimagining legacy. Because that can sometimes live in the memory of others, but with the blockchain and NFTs, it’s immutable and locked in via this god-like ledger.
And what about for Black community?
I believe that NFTs can hold the value that we have been screaming we are. In this country, everything begins with us. Definitely culturally but inventions as well. A lot of things are tracked back to us, but have been lost to history. When culture becomes mainstream, they forget where it comes from. For me, especially with cultural workers (artists) putting their work out there and having a breadcrumb makes it so that we can talk about our cumulative value; our value to the culture of this country and to the world. That is important to me because Black folks to this day are still screaming Black Lives Matter and that is because we aren’t valued as human beings or as creators. Because of this lack of value, we hold our breaths when cops pull us over because we know that our lives aren’t valued. For the generations that come after us now, there will be that connection to value. So you can’t just dismiss Black folks and their value because there’s this immutable record. Also the accrual of value over time is important. The value of culture is subjective but once culture is embedded in the everyday, then it has real value. I’m excited about that value and tracking it so it can no longer be dismissed.