After a tremendous year for NFTs, it comes as no surprise that female representation is next to nothing in this immensely male-dominated industry. According to one study, women accounted for only 5% of NFT art sales, as of November 2021. While there are only a handful of women-led projects in the space, fewer still are projects that focus on women. Artist Yam Karkai took notice of the issue and decided to do something about it. On July 27, she launched World of Women (WoW), a collection of 10,000 diverse female NFT avatars, which are now considered true blue-chip NFTs!
“I launched the collection at a time where I really felt like a change was needed in this space,” Karkai tells NFTevening. “At the time, the collectible projects that were booming were clearly directed for the male public, and there was nothing there for women to feel related to.” Other female artists in the space such as Drue Kataoka have expressed a similar sentiment.
Naturally, Yam Karkai was not keen on putting up any of these male-orientated NFTs as her profile picture. This got her thinking—if she felt this way, there were probably several others who felt the same. “Or a lot of people that might not feel the same, but might understand and want to support something like [World of Women].”
To be sure, this is not the first time that Karkai spotlighted females in her art. In fact, her genesis single edition NFT art collection, Women by Yam – Females in the spotlight, focused solely on women too.
“I’ve always drawn women and with my art, I’ve always tried to put women in the spotlight, show women empowerment, and highlight diversity,” she adds.
Yam Karkai’s NFT journey
Before foraying into the NFT space, Karkai was a freelance digital artist. Her journey was typical of others in her profession—joining freelancer platforms like Fiverr in an attempt to find clients. More often than not, digital artists needed more than just great artworks to succeed.
“I was not a person that was well connected in this world, so I would have never been able to make it as a named artist,” she recalls. In other words, she wasn’t connected to agents and other third parties who could help her career to take off. It was then that she came across NFTs.
“I got into NFTs because I was excited about a potential opportunity for me to make it as an artist in a completely different way than I was able to do before,” she adds. “And it’s completely up to me – I have the power in my own hands.”
The result was Women by Yam, originally dropped on OpenSea, Foundation, and Kalamint. Much like World of Women, the hand-drawn NFTs in the collection depicted women in all their glory in bold hues of pink, purple, green, and more. While they have since sold out, some of Karkai’s genesis NFTs continue to pick up for hefty sums in the secondary market. In fact, acclaimed NFT collector, Cozomo de’ Medici recently bought two Women by Yam NFTs for $73,000 and $109,000, respectively.
Undoubtedly, this marked a huge milestone in Karkai’s life. Laughing, a much-excited Karkai describes the event as “crazy” and “insane”. “These are not things that you even dream of—it’s not even something that you would ever consider could happen to you.”
Karkai created WoW to take her message to a wider audience
Karkai’s transition from single edition NFTs to World of Women came as a natural next step. After all, she had an important message to share—a message for a change seeking inclusivity, diversity, and female representation in the space. As opposed to single edition NFTs, collectible projects with thousands of NFTs can reach a broader audience and build a strong community. The project, she hoped, would help get her message far and wide.
It’s safe to say that World of Women has achieved that and a lot more. For one, the collection sold out in under 10 hours. Today, WoW has generated over 53,800 ETH or around $147 million in sales volume on OpenSea. Its floor price, meanwhile, has crossed 9 ETH. On top of that, the collection boasts several high-profile celebrities as their fans and collectors. From movie stars Reese Witherspoon and Eva Longoria to Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes and Olympic gold medalist Napheesa Collier, several A-listers have championed World of Women. The list also includes top NFT enthusiasts Gary Vaynerchuk and Pranksy.
According to Karkai, all of these achievements happened organically. “It’s a beautiful surprise— every time you see another name, that you grew up watching in movies, buy your collection and support it and love the message behind it,” she adds. “And it’s been super meaningful and humbling.”
Creating World of Women artwork
While Karkai focused on the artwork itself, the project’s other co-founders—Raphael Malavieille, BBA.eth, and Toomaie.eth, took care of the tech side of things. For Karkai, creating a female-centric collection that spoke to women across the globe was no easy task.
“The artistical process of doing this was actually very organized, which sounds really crazy, because art is usually this messy experience of emotions and [other] things,” she explains. “But, when you’re doing a collectible project, it’s way more organized, and you have guidelines that you set for yourself in an artistic sense. And because this was a collection that was going to mean so much and have such a strong message behind that, I put guidelines for myself to respect when I was drawing each asset.”
One such guideline, for example, was not to put any kind of religious symbols in the pieces. From the get-go, Karkai was sure that she wanted to create a collection that was “neutral” so that anyone could “imagine and interpret what their WoW is, who she is, and where she comes from.”
“I didn’t want to put any constraints to this and have someone get something that they don’t feel connected to,” she adds. This way, with strict guidelines for herself, she drew a total of 200 assets in a span of two months. These included hairstyles, clothes, eye colours, and more.
World of Women is walking the walk with its support of artists, charities
World of Women’s support of women doesn’t end with mere female NFTs. As a matter of fact, even before they launched the collection, Karkai and her team were absolutely certain of two core missions—to support one-of-one crypto artists and women-focused charities across the globe.
For the former, WoW has set up a WoW Fund to highlight talented artists in the space, particularly female artists. Initially, they allocated 15% of the primary sales to the fund to collect pieces from emerging crypto artists. In January, for instance, WoW collected 20 pieces, including from artists Twinz Garden, Vikki Bardot, Nathalie Huijbers, and others.
“This is clearly something that we wanted to do from the very beginning because we all share the love for single edition art pieces,” Karkai said. “Especially for me, being a single edition artist, it meant everything to me to be able to support my fellow artists that I knew way before World of Women.”
When asked about the criteria for selecting artists, she says there’s none whatsoever. “We don’t care how many followers you have, where you come from—we really couldn’t care less,” she adds. “We just look at the art and if it resonates with us, and if we see the talent, the passion, and the intention behind an art piece, we will support the artist.”
Often, the WoW community chooses the artist or artworks that they would like to support. In addition, through their artdrops initiative, the project airdrops NFTs from select artists to holders.
Supporting women-led organisations
From day one, giving back to women-led organisations and sustainability-focused organisations has been one of World of Women’s core missions. To further this mission, in December, WoW partnered with women and climate rights activist Inna Modja as its new Philanthropy Advisor. Through her non-profit organization, Code Green NFT, WoW will also be supporting ecological causes.
“We’re working on new solutions to help the world, women and girls around the world, and also the environment,” Karkai adds. Recently, as part of its partnership with Code Green, WoW curated a charitable NFT drop revolving around the theme of ‘Women & Climate’. As of February 12, the drop had raked in 84 ETH (around $262,300). Of this, the 12 participating artists donated 70% of the proceeds to the Great Green Wallan, an African-led initiative. It is growing an 8000 km green corridor across Africa to improve the lives of the women on the frontline of the climate crisis.
Apart from this, WoW has also donated over $250,000 to several causes close to their hearts. This includes She’s the First, Too Young To Wed, and Code to Inspire, among others.
“With charities like Too Young to Wed, we’ve had the opportunity to follow really closely what they’ve been doing with our support,” Karkai adds. “It’s been really incredible and beautiful to see the impact we’re able to create even outside of the NFT space.”
What’s next for World of Women?
World of Women kickstarted the new year with an incredible announcement—it signed with Madonna’s ex Manager, Guy Oseary. The move will allow the project to expand into industries like entertainment and gaming.
Commenting on the partnership, Karkai said, “Partnering with Guy Oseary means everything to us—now we’ll be able to open doors that we could have never imagined opening in the past without him. We’re super excited because he’s going to be capable of taking our objectives and dreams for World of Women to really the next level and maximize everything we want to do.”
“Guy has worked his whole life in helping women in the music industry. So, he shares the same values as us…it just feels very right,” she added.
Apart from this, WoW has also announced its second collection, World of Women—Galaxy. This will serve as an extension to the original collection but will be larger, and more affordable. Karkai will draw the assets of this collection as well. While she did not reveal the launch date, she confirmed that the collection is “certainly coming this year”.
“Right now, we no longer feel like we’re just a collectible project,” Karkai says. “We really feel like we’re a community of like-minded people that share the same values and same objectives for this world and this space.”
Karkai’s message for female artists in the space
As an accomplished female NFT artist and a champion of women empowerment, Karkai’s advice to other female artists is to put their work out and be consistent.
“Just do your thing, don’t let yourself be influenced by what you think is working or what you think that you see is working,” she says. “If you believe in your art and your craft, just put it out there and be consistent. Put in the hours, because the reality is that this is like a job. When you’re trying to make it in the NFT space, you have to put the hours on a daily basis and the effort and put yourself out there and make sure that you’re everywhere without being spammy.”