Photo: Journals of India
In Nigeria, Chidi Nwaubani launched an NFT project called “Looty” to reclaim the African artifacts stolen by European colonizers. He has recreated these artifacts into 3D images by taking advantage of technology, selling them as Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs to support young African artists.
The project emerged amid calls for objects stolen during the colonial period to be returned to their countries of origin, which has intensified in the last couple of years. As a result, Western institutions have complied, sending items back to countries like Nigeria and Benin.
“Imagine a world where these items were never looted,” said Nwaubini. “We’re just trying to reimagine that world and bring that world into the digital form.”
The project’s NFTs are based on an image of the Benin Bronzes looted by the British troops in 1897 from what is now Nigeria. The artifacts are currently held in the British Museum in London.
Looty is described as an alternative form of repatriation, wherein digital technology is used to reclaim a measure of control and ownership over artifacts still held far from Africa. The project also takes its name from the act of looting and makes a playful homage to the dog Looty. A British captain found the dog after the loot of the Summer Palace near Beijing in 1860. The troops then took the spoils of the loot back to London and presented them to Queen Victoria.
To create the collection, the Looty project took up a process they call “a digital art heist.” A legal procedure, the digital art heist occurs when a Looty team member goes into a museum and scans a target object with technology that can be used to create a 3D image. An NFT of the scanned object is then created and put up for sale on Looty’s website.
The website also doubles as an online gallery where people can view the images for free. It was launched on May 13 but did not make any immediate sales. However, despite the lack of sales, the project attracted a lot of attention as Nwaubani received messages of interest from around the world.
The project’s NFTs are based on an image of the Benin Bronzes that were looted by the British troops in 1897 from what is now Nigeria. The artifacts are currently held in the British Museum in London.
“Knowing that it’s Nigerian but it lives outside of Nigeria has always troubled me,” admitted Nbauwani. “So I felt that there’s something that we could do to change that.”
Chidi Nwaubani revealed that 20% of the proceeds of NFT sales would go towards grants for African artists aged 25 or under. He also shared that Looty’s next project will focus on an ancient Egyptian item.