Nigeria 's Looty seeks to reclaim African art in digital form

There is  a new enthusiasm  to reclaim artwork looted from Africa by colonial powers.

And some  Africans are somehow orchestrating to gain access to museums beyond the Western world, assemble  all the artwork stolen  from their territories during the colonial era, and take them back home?

And there is a  young Nigerian man seeking to do just that. But rather than actually shattering into museums and hauling away the works of art, he wants to extradite them digitally.

"This is the first digital repatriation of stolen artwork," said 34-year-old Chidi, a Nigerian creative designer and founder of Looty, who declined to give his surname because, he said, he wants people to focus on his project and not his person.

"I had this idea that: Why don't we take back the physical works of art into the digital world?"

The thought of Looty first òriginated to him following the increasing communication throughout non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which allege to provide with general confirmation of the proprietorship  of digital files.

While the legal rights and human rights transmitted by NFTs can be undecided, they are enhancing  more frequently in the public eye.

The NFT of the first tweet by Twitter originator Jack Dorsey bargained for $3m (£2.4m), and an additional one of the arrest warrant for South Africa's late anti-apartheid figure Nelson Mandela brought up $130,000 at an auction sale

The NFT communictaion are happening at the very  same time that there is multiplied  rampage for the revert of artwork stolen from Africa by European colonisers.

"We were talking about provenance and ownership of the pieces. What if I was able to take them back and turn them into NFTs?" Chidi said.

The process of extraditing the artwork starts with probing prospective pieces for Looty, then travelling to museums to cat scan them using special apps on mobile phones.

Subsequently, the images are uploaded on to laptops and the complex process of transforming them to 3D begins, using special apps and technology.

"To be honest, it is almost like we are re-sculpting the artwork again," Chidi said. "One piece can take like a whole week to finish, maybe more."

Benin Bronzes digitally created.

The Looty internet  will be officially put in the air on 13 May, but the toil began in November 2021.

While Chidi is the originator, he toils with two other Nigerians and a Somali.

Each honorary member of the team concentrates on 3D design, NFT technology or editing, but they have all visited museums in the UK and France  capturing portraits  of the artwork with their mobile phones.

So far, they have managed to produce about 25 different pieces, including some of the famous Benin Bronzes that once adorned the royal palace of the kingdom of Benin in what is today Nigeria, and have their visibility  set on many more.

Chidi says he is acknowledges that the word "Looty" is associated with  "looting", which is an act of violence, but points out that there is a deeper meaning to his choice of name for the project.

In 1860, a British serviceman, Captain John Hart Dunne, cane back to England from Peking (now Beijing) with an unusual dog which he bestowed to Queen Victoria as a gift for her "royal collection of dogs".

Christened  Looty in respect to its roots, the notable dog that occasionally sat for paintings and sketches by acclaimed artists, was secretly taken after the British fired a royal palace in Peking.

Looty was one of the foremost  in the UK of what became known as Pekinese dogs, and lived in Windsor Castle until its demise in 1872.

The Chinese government rejected these assertions , even after one of the looted artwork re-appeared on exhibit at an airport in Shanghai.

"Before the British were looting artefacts in Africa, they had already made a fortune from the things they stole from China. In choosing the name 'Looty', I am referencing that, but also referencing the dog that was given to Queen Victoria," Chidi said.

"Even though we are called Looty, we are doing it in a non-violent way and also a legal way."

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