It is no doubt that NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are changing the way we view, buy and sell art, but are they also having a hand in the way that we define Disability? The medium has opened up doors for artists who have previously been marginalized and restricted from getting rich off their own art.
Disabled artists are owning their identities as well as finding a profitable future with cryptocurrency. Like any industry, it is not without its discrepancies, Lachi who is a Blind, award-winning recording artist and charting songwriter, says, “There are still systemic barriers to entry, evidenced in the makeup of the NFT community. Not only is there screaming lack of disability-forward NFTs, but the gap is large even for those identifying as a minority race or gender, and of course, the gap is largest for those disabled artists intersectioned with race, ethnicity and gender. In attending NFT round-tables and information sessions, nearly all presenters were of the same race, sex and social status. Why do we still see the systemic residue in a market claiming to shake up the industry? Let’s take the opportunity to really and truly shake things up while the market is young by broadening the makeup of the NFT community.”
Lachi is working to change this and has teamed up with some of the world’s best visual artists. They all identify as having a disability and plan to release an exclusive collection of NFT’s on the Foundation platform to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. International Day of Persons with Disabilities occurs every year on December 3rd and has been promoted by the United Nations since 1992. Among the visual collaborators working with Lachi on this unique project include; Clara Woods, Rachel Gadsden, Elijah Osborne and Tiffany Antosz.
Lachi is on a mission to eliminate the stigma behind the word Disabled its self and encourage non-disabled people to celebrate and embrace Disability – Lachi strongly believes art has a big role to play. “Art is the truest expression of culture. We can preach until we’ve exhausted words and still not scratch the surface of what art can convey. In this spirit, I believe NFTs are a great medium for elevating Disability Culture. Disability Culture celebrates the diverse disability experience and is unapologetic, creative, innovative, rooted in problem-solving, and is a vibrant counter-response to social exclusion and oppression. It is not speeches and marches that will begin to break down societies walls, but amplifying disability culture, creative views and artistic experiences,” states Lachi.
Art has been a significant part of Lachi’s journey, and early in her childhood, she spoke few words and had few friends as she tried to find her place as a legally blind daughter of African immigrants. “I used music, drawings and poetry as an outlet of self-expression, as an escape to wondrous places, and as an avenue for self-love. And though I am now boisterous, my vocal art, my advocacy art, is still a mix of multi-marginalized self-expression manifest. And while my art has certainly matured, the only true difference between that of the young me, hopeful in a murky world, and me of today, as that I am no longer traversing alone into those wondrous places, I am bringing the world with me.”
There is the opportunity with NFT’s to influence society on a new platform and for disabled creators to grace the world with their work whilst seeing monetary returns. Lachi’s hope for the project is that it elevates Disability Culture and celebrates the renowned creators who identify as disabled artists. “The lack of disabled creativity in the mainstream only reinforces social discrimination. So my fellow collaborators and I are hoping to start a trend in artistic collaboration in the disability community and to educate everyone from the NFT collector to the general public about the amazing work coming out of this community.”
Artists express their identity in every piece they produce, whether or not they intentionally set out to do so. Disabled artists bring a unique perspective to their projects which has been largely unseen from many of our galleries and exhibits due to social barriers and stereotypes. Lachi explains the joy and importance of working with fellow disabled creators, “Disability is a natural form of diversity, and just as other diversities bring a certain creative uniqueness, so does that of Disability. The vessel of our body, of our mind, comes in unique individual form, and it is with this unique vessel we paint our experience. Artists with disabilities, however, paint not on a blank backdrop but a canvas laden with historical exclusion, stigma, and oppression. Despite society relegating us to create in the margins, we create a beauty louder, more determined and further prominent than that drawn within the lines. Art is bold. Art is daring. Art jumps off the page. I encourage anyone who wants to push the envelope and create a more socially evolved experience, collaborate with artists with disabilities.”
Non-disabled people often try to deny a disabled persons identity, consciously or unconsciously, it can be damaging to the disabled community. Lachi believes focusing on the Ability in Disability, saying things like “putting the Ability in Disability”, muddies the fact that Disability, as its complete word, is an identity. “It’s like focusing on the American of African-American, or the man in “wo”-man. Disability is one full word. Many tip-toe around the word Disability with euphemisms like “differently-abled” and “special”. This is due in large part to the negative connotation associated with the prefix “dis” which promotes low societal expectations of disabled persons, and worse yet, internalized ableism.”
Lachi explores the positive words that begin with DIS “distinct, distinguished, discount” and “the journey through its etymology, arriving at its true meaning “set apart” — a quality sought by any ambitious mind. People with disabilities problem-solve, innovate and think critically every day, living in a society not built for their needs. It’s no wonder a significant number of top disrupters – innovators, scientists, artists and leaders openly claim some form of Disability or neurodiversity.” Says Lachi.
Lachi is proud and excited about the disabled led, exclusive collection of NFT’s on the Foundation platform which can be found through this link. A proportion of each sale shall be given to the Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities (RAMPD) initiative. RAMPD’s mission is to serve the music and creative arts industries by amplifying disability culture, promoting inclusion, and advocating for accessibility.