Photo: The British Museum
Technological innovation has provided many advantages in recent times, but the introduction of Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs has been one of its most popular uses. With dozens of projects emerging, it can be easy for some to drown in the NFT space. However, one of the latest projects to make waves has generated plenty of interest in going beyond the typical NFT design.
Looty is an NFT project launched to reclaim African artifacts stolen by European colonizers. A Nigerian man named Chidi Nwaubani decided to develop 3D images of the artifacts to sell them on the Blockchain.
Calls for stolen objects during the colonial period to be returned to their countries of origin have intensified in the last couple of years. Western institutions have heeded this demand, sending them back to countries like Nigeria and Benin.
“Imagine a world where these items were never looted,” said Looty founder Nwaubani. “We’re trying to reimagine that world and bring that world into the digital form.
Chidi Nwaubani described Looty as an alternative form of repatriation, utilizing digital technologies to reclaim a measure of control and ownership over artifacts that remain separated from Africa. The NFTs are created through a process Nwaubani calls “a digital art heist,” a perfectly legal procedure that has a Looty team member enter a museum and scan the target object with the technology used to create 3D images.
“Knowing that it’s Nigerian but it lives outside of Nigeria has always troubled me,” revealed Nwaubani. “So I felt that there’s something that we could do to change that.”
Looty takes its name from the act of looting and pays homage to the dog Looty, which a British captain found after troops looted the Summer Palace near Beijing in 1860. The loot was taken back to London and presented to Queen Victoria.
The project’s website was launched on May 13 but did not earn immediate sales. However, Nwaubani received messages from people worldwide, all expressing their interest. The first NFTs are based on an image of the Benin Bronzes that the British troops looted in 1897 from what is now Nigeria. The Bronzes are currently held in the British Museum in London.
Chidi Nwaubani has hinted that Looty’s next project will focus on an ancient Egyptian item but declined to give further details.