Photo: The British Museum
Technological innovation has made it possible to restore artifacts, landscapes, and even mummies to their original state. Still, one man has utilized it to recreate stolen artifacts and sell them as non-fungible tokens or NFTs.
In Nigeria, Chidi Nwaubani launched a unique project that reclaims African artifacts stolen by European colonizers, recreating them into 3D images and putting them on the blockchain. Naming the project Looty, Nwaubani has described it as an alternative form of repatriation, wherein technology is used to reclaim a measure of control and ownership of articles far from Africa.
“Imagine a world where these items were never looted,” said the project founder. “We’re just trying to reimagine that world and bring that world into the digital form.”
The project aims to use its proceeds to fund young artists and takes its name from the act of looting. Looty is also a playful homage to the dog Looty, found by a British captain after troops looted the Summer Palace near Beijing in 1860. The loot was then taken back to London and presented to Queen Victoria.
The Looty website launched on May 13, but the sales didn’t pick up overnight. However, the project’s mission piqued the interest of people worldwide, and Nwaubani received plenty of messages. Looty’s first NFTs are based on an image of a Benin Bronze, some artifacts that were looted by British troops in 1897 from where Nigeria now stands. The artifacts are currently held in the British Museum in London.
“Knowing that it’s Nigerian but it lives outside Nigeria has always troubled me,” revealed Nwaubani. “So I felt that there’s something we could do to change that.”
The Looty collection was conceptualized in a process Nwaubani called “a digital art heist.” It is a perfectly legal procedure that involves a Looty team member entering the museum and scanning the target object with technology that is often utilized to create 3D images.
Chidi Nwaubani and Looty plan to shift their focus on an Ancient Egyptian item as their next big project, but they declined to elaborate on their plans.