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A new project is using NFTs to digitally repatriate Africa’s looted artworks

On 13 January 1897, the British Empire launched a devastating punitive expedition in Benin City. Among the royal treasures and artworks looted were the iconic Benin Bronzes. In the decades that have followed, countless looted artworks have been kept out of their home countries. Now, a new digital restitution project aims to rectify this.

NFT repatriate Africa looted artworks

Titled Looty, the project is run by an anonymous team of artists and philosophers intent on fast forwarding the digital restitution of looted artworks through the use of Blockchain and NFT technology.

How will it work, exactly? As the team behind Looty explains on its website, their team of ‘Looters’ will go to the museums (physically) where looted artworks are being held and take back the artworks (digitally). These digital assets will then be made publicly available to purchase as NFTs.

‘Our mission is to empower the future generation of artists from the continent of Africa. Looty will release NFTs in editions 25 unique 1 of 1 designs,’ reads a statement on Looty’s homepage. ‘The sale of each additional NFT will pay royalties of 20% to the Looty Fund, giving out grants to young artist’s from the continent of Africa.’

NFT repatriate Africa looted artworks
NFT repatriate Africa looted artworks

‘To challenge the museum institutions who refuse to return these looted works to the rightful countries of ownership, we are launching NFTs of looted works and returning the first edition to the Oba of Benin. In doing so, we hope to answer the legal, philosophical and moral question of what happens if the NFT version eclipses the value of that which is held in museums? Will the works be given back then?’

Looty was launched on 13 May 2022, 125 years since the punitive expedition.  

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