Designer portrays Shanghai lockdown through NFTs

STORY: A freelance designer inking everyday scenes under Shanghai's lockdown has won hearts on the internet in his playful series, 'POPaganda'.

With a touch of humour Malaysian illustrator Simon Fong takes us into his studio as he sketches a trio of workers clad in personal protective equipment conducting a routine nasal swab test.

The words 'Poking time' at the top of the poster and its stark visual style are reminiscent of Mao-era red and white propaganda posters.

Fong hopes his work brings a little bit of relief to residents in Shanghai:

"I've heard people mentioning that it (a COVID-19 lockdown) kind of like, bring Shanghai backwards a bit. So it kind of like immediately leads me back to those old propaganda poster, which is very reminiscent of China. And then a lot of people could relate or resonate with it. And so instead of making it through propaganda-style where the government is kind of like brainwashing people last time, I am using it more like in a fun way to convey my message."

Fong has sold nine in his series in the form of NFTs for an average price of $284.

Fong’s sudden success is just one example among many where Shanghai residents are turning to non-fungible tokens to preserve memories of the city's month-long COVID-19 lockdown, minting videos, photos and artworks capturing their ordeal so they can be shared and avoid deletion.

NFTs exist on a blockchain that serves as a public ledger, allowing anyone to verify the NFT's authenticity who owns it.

Fong, who lives with his wife and dog, added that his works try to find humour in difficult situations.

"I think my personal favourite would be the "Stay Negative", because it's simple and very straightforward. And it has kind of like hidden meaning behind it. It depends on how one interprets it because in normal days before COVID, people ask you to stay positive."

One focus of Shanghai's lockdown minting moment was April 22, when netizens battled censors overnight to share a six-minute video called "The Voice of April". It was a montage of voices recorded over the course of the Shanghai outbreak.

Already, over 700 different items related to the video were found on NFT marketplace OpenSea, alongside hundreds of other NFTs related to the lockdown in Shanghai.