NATIVE Exclusive: Nissi Ogulu is a multidisciplinary star

"I want to represent Africans in a positive light and give people the chance to really see more about the culture."

Nissi Ogulu is as prolific and ambidextrous as they come. She was born into a family of renowned luminaries from an array of fields. Her grandfather, Benson Idonije, was the manager of the legendary Fela Kuti, her brother Damini Ogulu who goes by the moniker Burna Boy, is a Grammy award-winning superstar while her mother Bose Ogulu is a polyglot, who also doubles as Burna Boy’s manager.

Toeing a similar arc as those who came before her, Nissi continues to widen the potency of her arsenal by revealing layers to her personal and artistic self. The most seditious testament to her far-reaching brilliance arrived last year when she was announced as the lead engineer that brought the 2022 Jaguar Land Rover to life. Speaking on the experience of working with the car-manufacturing behemoth, Nissi shares with the NATIVE, “It was good, it was very lesson-filled, I learnt a lot of things while working there… So, for me, invaluable lessons were definitely learned on my side.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by N I S S I N A T I O N 🌎 (@nissination)

As far back as she can remember, Nissi has always been a jack-of-all-trades. At the age of four, she had already begun exploring her creative side by crystallising sprawling stories and images in her mind into vivacious comic books while also learning to play the keyboard. Outside her creative passions, she also leaned into her love for science and design. The way she sees it, all her passions are inextricably linked and meld to form her identity. She shares “these are things that I’ve always been able to do as far back as I can remember, it basically makes up my identity.”

It is this desire to explore the breadth of her creative potential that spurred her to release her debut NFT project, ‘Jigsaw Tribe.’ Aside from being a creative conduit for the iconoclastic 26-year-old, ‘Jigsaw Tribe’ also doubles as her attempt to tether Africans back to their cultural heritage by educating them on African culture and music instruments, “I thought that that’s the knowledge that a lot of people don’t have and I wanted to spread that knowledge”.

Off the back of her sizzling new single “Gravity”, a vaunted career as a project manager and a burgeoning career as a visual artist, Nissi spoke to THE NATIVE about being a multi-dimensional creative and her just-released NFT project, ‘Jigsaw Tribe.’

Our conversation which follows below has been lightly edited for clarity.

NATIVE: You’re renowned as a multi-faceted creative with interests ranging from music to design, and now NFTs, how do you manage to wear these hats?

NISSI: I think it’s more about planning your time and minimising your sleep or social time. Dedicating most of your time to work-based stuff and planning to make sure you’re meeting your deadlines.

NATIVE: We live in a society that forces people to keep the range of their interests razor-thin. What made you feel like you could do everything and succeed at them?

NISSI: When you have a set of talents or skills that have just been naturally embedded in you from the onset, these are things that I’ve always been able to do as far back as I can remember, it basically makes up my identity: it is all who I am. So, there has never been a time when I was looking for things to add on, they’ve always been there.

NATIVE: How did you begin your journey into the creative world?

NISSI: From four, five years old, I was drawing comics and playing the keyboard in music school. I was doing art as well, and in school, I was always naturally good at sciences and design based things. It wasn’t a “read for it”, I just naturally could do it. Then, I guess that grew. I just kept developing, making more art, recording music from like 13, just trying to practice my recording skills. Obviously, I had school as well, eventually in 2016, I released my first single, “Pay Attention”,which started my first solo exhibition in 2015, and it’s been moving since then.

NATIVE: How was the process of working with Range Rover on a car design?

NISSI: It was good. It was very lesson-filled, I learnt a lot of things while working there: How to work with a team, how to be a leader and how the entire process of car manufacturing and design works. So, for me, invaluable lessons were definitely learned on my side. From a final year project that I had done in Uni, actually two projects, my supervisors and all the other heads of heads of department were quite impressed and they sent my stuff off to Jaguar Land Rover, who were interested. I went to work with them for a three month period, then they asked me to come back for this project, and I did. I worked on this project for about three and a half years, so in total I spent about 5 years working with them, if you sum it all up.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by N I S S I N A T I O N 🌎 (@nissination)

NATIVE: Are you allowed to talk about the specifics of your role in the project?

NISSI: I can’t go into too much detail but I was essentially the lead engineer, that meant working on specific commodities in the glass house area. So, interior cabins, console and then glass house where I worked with all the teams from the design team, to the engineering feasibility, and CAD. So, it was the full project management role.

NATIVE: How did the idea for this NFT project come about?

NISSI: So, I made a collection for my physical art called ‘Puzzled,’ which we’d been touring this entire year with exhibitions. Then, the idea dawned on me because the concept of it was so interesting. I was trying to bring in music and research on the traditional way that was birthed in Africa. So here, that was how ‘Jigsaw Tribe’ came about.

NATIVE: Can you explain the overall goal of your NFT project?

NISSI: I was trying to achieve opening people up to a new concept. When I found out about the African cultures and the creation of their instruments and the backgrounds of all the individuals, I found it to be extremely interesting. I knew that it was knowledge that a lot of people don’t have and I wanted to spread that knowledge. I wanted to represent Africans in a positive and colourful light and give people the chance to really see more about the culture and the diversity that we have, and also promote creativity as it pertains to merging creatives and technology, because I’m a tech enthusiast.

NATIVE: How open do you reckon that Nigerians are to technologies like NFTs and Web 3?

NISSI: There’s a really nice budding sector for technology in Nigeria to be honest, especially over the past two years. It has been growing, and I think it’s only going to keep growing because we are in the digital and technological revolution currently. Compared to other places in the world, there’s less understanding of the space but then again, our system is not quite as developed as the rest of the world but I think with time, we’ll get the hang of it.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by N I S S I N A T I O N 🌎 (@nissination)

NATIVE: Are other Nigerians involved in the project? Digital art creators, developers, product strategists?

NISSI: My core team is predominantly made up of Nigerians, the art was all done by me. I have an animation company with a good team, who were able to convert my art into animated 3D pieces. So, 80 percent of my team is made up of Nigerians, the other 20 percent is Ugandans and Kenyans. So, I’ve kept it quite Afrocentric.

NATIVE: How has the reception been so far?

NISSI: I think the reception has been good, especially for a project that’s a first. Obviously, I had no community at the time when it dropped, so I think the interest just generated as the drop happened and there are people who are keying into it. I haven’t looked at the region or demographic of all the buyers, so far, so I can’t give you a detailed breakdown of who has really been patronising but just looking at the numbers from a high level, it has been doing good.

NATIVE: Judging by our widespread adoption of crypto, it’s safe to say that Nigerians have a massive internet in tech, but this gusto for tech hasn’t translated to the widespread adoption of NFTs, possibly because people are in the dark with regards to it, are you doing anything to bridge that gap in knowledge?

NISSI: Yeah, I think as the drops and the campaigns continue to happen, and we’re engaging more people as part of the campaign, it’s going to spread. It might not be overnight but the more drops and conversations we have about NFTs, we’ll eventually spread the knowledge across the African space.

NATIVE: From what I’ve gathered, this project is somehow affiliated with Binance, can you throw some light on that?

NISSI: So I’ve partnered with Binance for this project, Binance NFT’s and Binance Forex, so they’re my official partners for the drop.

NATIVE: What are the perks of partnering with a brand like Binance as opposed to launching a project of this similitude single handedly ?

NISSI: Binance has a platform. Having a platform or any group of people that follow you is always a help, because they they already have an existing user-base, which will automatically give your project more eyeballs.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by N I S S I N A T I O N 🌎 (@nissination)

NATIVE: Should we expect a music-NFT project from you soon?

NISSI: Yeah! Why you trying to expose the P now? But yeah, I want to do stuff differently. I like to be different, let me just be honest. I want to do stuff a little bit differently because I’m an artist and an artiste at the same time, so finding a beautiful way to merge that in is what I’m planning, but let me not spill the T. Let me let you guys be pleasantly surprised.

NATIVE: Can you briefly spotlight the highs and lows of working on this project?

NISSI: The high points for me have been the amount of interest that it has garnered, not just around the continent but from people internationally. It has been great to see this kind of interest in Africa and in art. The lows for me were the growing pains of trying to learn the process and having conversations to build the community.

NATIVE: Can you touch on some of the noteworthy things you discovered or came to understand as a result of working on this project?

NISSI: I’m learning new things everyday. There are new conversations to have, new utilities, new people that have interesting platforms, so I’m just learning as I go.

NATIVE: What determines the worth of an NFT in your collection and what would you say makes your NFT pieces formidable investment options?

NISSI: With NFT’s it’s almost like buying a digital art or asset that doesn’t really depreciate, especially if the artist is keeping with what they’re doing. In the same way that a lot of things are influenced by recognition and fame and having an audience, it’s the same with NFTs.

NATIVE: Any parting words for creatives hoping to get into NFT’s?

NISSI: What I would say is, do your research, try to grow a community and start having conversations about your art/ NFTs before dropping them.