From the Andrews Sisters to the Jackson Brothers, sibling harmonies are well known and respected. In business too, family run operations head some of the best known ABC & Son/Daughter combinations – but what happens when you take two artistic siblings and merge them into one business? Metropolis World is the answer.
Metropolis World, a soon to launch curated metaverse platform, differentiates itself from other metaverse platforms due to its design aesthetic: its cities are created digitally by hand and every property is a unique standalone piece of art. Unlike the majority of NFT collections Metropolis is not utilizing generative art to create the actual cities.
This attention to detail and unique approach is very much driven by the twin and diverse artistic backgrounds of the two Ajami siblings.
Rania – filmmaker
Award winning filmmaker Rania came to prominence while still in film school. She stumbled across the elite female bodyguard corps employed by Libyan dictator Qaddafi, nicknamed the Amazons in Europe. Rania travelled to Libya against the advice of her college professors to interview these women for award winning 2004 documentary Shadows of a Leader.
Her website is littered with awards from her other films most notably the 2008 black comedy Asylum Seekers and after exploring the fantastical in film, Rania began looking at creating stylized real-world environments. Seven years of development went into a NYC project called Pip’s Island where she created an immersive physical experience combining puppetry, digital animation, cutting-edge technology and live actors to create a thrilling adventure for young audiences and families.
“This was initially very successful and opened in Times Square,” says Rania. “We attracted a lot of interest as we were merging story, adventure and gamification and tying it all up with technology.”
Pip’s Island was fully tactile and spread across 13 different sets and began to spawn real interest in gamified stories, graphic novels and animation. Then Covid hit and the attraction had to close.
“That’s how Rashid and I began looking at the virtual metaverse world – but always bringing it back to the physical.”
Rashid – DJ, audio visual music artist
Rashid’s background is in music and music production. He has released music on many labels from Ministry of Sound to house platforms, while collaborating with major names. What fascinates Rashid is how music can become experimental and immersive.
“When web3, NFTs and metaverse began to emerge, I knew this was something I wanted to explore. Last year when I looked at some of the major NFT collections and the hype, I really felt more could be done, and more depth could be added.
“I look at what Rania had done, especially in her story creation, and I felt there was room to create something much more interesting,” says Rashid.
Collaboration – NFT animal avatars
Before they launched into Metropolis, Rania and Rashid worked together on an NFT drop that combined photography, music and avatars. Called We are Animal the collection takes on the popular PFP trend where people swap out their profile picture for an avatar or NFT they might hold.
Rania explains: “We wanted to explore the PFP craze but instead of using a digital image, we dressed up people in real (stylized) animal outfits. We wanted to blur the line between digital identities and human selves.”
Each unique photograph evokes a fairytale world where lost creatures wander through the woods searching for something. Each NFT, a one of one, comes with a unique soundtrack only released upon purchase. These are available on KnownOrigin.
Another collaboration includes pairing unique film of the Libyan desert taken by Rania during her documentary work with Rashid’s music. The tectonic plates of visual filmmaking and storytelling were slowly connecting with the sonic soundtrack. The siblings’ harmonies were coming together.
Metropolis – the vision
As it happens, Metropolis actually came up randomly. Rania was working with an artist who was creating different landscapes and cityscapes.
“An idea emerged, what if we could create NFTs that were dynamic? What if you could enter a street corner and learn about the people who lived there? What if that became a neighbourhood with lots of tiny micro communities?” says Rania.
From there it was only one small step to considering an entire metropolis, a master painting that people could own via NFTs.
“We were definitely art focused which accounts for the unique buildings and NFTs – no two houses or quarters are the same,” she says.
As the idea developed, they decided that Metropolis World would consist of six cities, the first being Celeste and all the cities having their unique attributes and elemental power.
In Celeste the theme is a cultural oasis; its elemental power of air comes from sitting in the clouds and music is a huge influence on this city, this is reflected in the musical founding members. Part of the mythology of Celeste will be the gift of flight. The avatars, citizens and nomads will be able to fly, and some will even have wings.
Rashid is keen to draw upon the digi-physical connection. He sees the first city, Celeste, as a giant beautiful painting that could also sit in a gallery at the same time.
“It’s also a dynamic entire Metaverse that you can actually enter and live in – and engage in. That is a critical part,” he says.
For Rashid it was critical that every nook and cranny of Celeste is different. “This is not a generative world, it’s bespoke. It’s the same as owning a piece of real property in London – there is a story to the property, about the people who lived there before you and beside you.
“We were very keen to differentiate ourselves from a metaverse such as Sandbox or Decentraland where every plot is the same.”
Visually Celeste is a blend of ancient Italian hill cities and a modern landscape. Rania talks about the story behind the six cities being born from the mass destruction of six asteroids.
“We wanted to build a collage or collection of past human history and culture in a huge mishmash – a rebirth if you will – with Asian influences and Middle Eastern architecture. We are trying to take all of humanity’s collective consciousness to form this city,” she says.
Rashid returns to the digi-physical approach. “We’re very excited about the idea that someone can purchase a Metropolis t-shirt in a unique drop in our ecosystem – and then wear the actual t-shirt walking down their street. So, both you and your virtual avatar will look the same.
“This goes right the way down to furniture – you can buy the same furniture for your home in Celeste as sits in your home in real life,” says Rashid.
Rania and Rashid are joined by some big names who believe in their vision. 50 founding citizens are creating custom properties in the ecosystem from the worlds of music, art, gaming, NFT, crypto and business whom it is calling founding citizens. These include — 3LAU, Bored Elon, Chad Knight, Dillon Francis, Diplo, Fvckrender, Valfre, Meltem Demirors, Outlier Ventures, Steve Aoki.
Technology choices – partners with Flare Network
Metropolis World is part of the Outlier Ventures incubation platform and was introduced to Flare, a new blockchain which enables secure decentralized interoperability between chains and metaverses.
Flare’s blockchain technology will allow for the seamless movement by users between different metaverse ecosystems and blockchains, such as Decentraland and Sandbox, which is a key aspect of Metropolis’ vision for the metaverse.
The Flare partnership means that Metropolis World becomes a one stop destination as it now has a bridge into other metaverses. Metropolis users will be able to move into other worlds easily without borders.
One of the first ports of call for Metropolis is to offer passports in the form of dynamic NFTs that provide an entry into Metropolis World – a chance to own a property in the genesis city which will be limited to just 500 properties.
These PFPs, rather like the We are Family collection will be unique beautiful avatars and will have utility. Holders of the passport will be entitled to earn $CLAY, the native token of Metropolis World. In fact, it will be possible to earn $CLAY by engaging on Discord, joining events or going to a real-world event.
There will be six different passports, all of them artworks in their own right, available in September.
Metropolis is only beginning its official social rollout with the website coming in the next few weeks.
“The website is going to be phenomenal,” says Rashid. “It will be fully immersive and interactive with hours of exploring involved. We have our 50 founder members, and we’ll bring on new partners, host AMAs, workshops, physical events and then once the passports are sold we’ll start asking our community what they want – the feedback loop from our community is going to be vital to the success of the ecosystem.”
As part of that community push, Metropolis is announcing a grant programme aimed at creators and developers who want to create businesses, projects, platforms to help populate our world.
So to be a flying creator, passport holder or partner, checkout metropolisworld.io for more information.