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What are NFTs? What benefit do they have over traditional art?
Just a couple of months ago, Jazmine Boykins was posting her artwork online for free of charge . The 20-year-old digital artist’s dreamy animations of Black life were drawing many likes, comments and shares, but not much income, apart from money she made selling swag together with her designs between classes at North Carolina A&T State University.But Boykins has recently been selling an equivalent pieces for thousands of dollars each, because of an emerging technology upending the principles of digital ownership: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. NFTs—digital tokens tied to assets which will be bought, sold and traded—are enabling artists like Boykins to take advantage of their work more easily than ever. “At first, I didn’t know if it had been trustworthy or legit,” says Boykins, who goes by the web handle “BLACKSNEAKERS” and who has sold quite $60,000 in NFT art over the past six months. “But to ascertain digital art being bought at these prices, it’s pretty astounding. It’s given me the courage to stay going.” Where to buy NFTs non fungible tokensNFTs are having their big-bang moment: collectors and speculators have spent quite $200 million on an array of NFT-based artwork, memes and GIFs within the past month alone, consistent with market tracker Crypto-collectibles & blockchain gaming news and tools, compared with $250 million throughout all of 2020. which was before the digital artist Mike Winkelmann, referred to as Beeple, sold a bit for a record-setting $69 million at famed firm Christie’s on March 11—the third highest price ever fetched by any currently living artist, after Jeff Koons and David Hockney.NFTs are best understood as computer files combined with proof of ownership and authenticity, sort of a deed. Like cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, they exist on a blockchain—a tamper-resistant digital public ledger. But like dollars, cryptocurrencies are “fungible,” meaning one bitcoin is usually well worth the same as the other bitcoin. against this , NFTs have unique valuations set by the very best bidder, a bit like a Rembrandt or a Picasso. Artists who want to sell their work as NFTs need to check in with a marketplace, then “mint” digital tokens by uploading and validating their information on a blockchain (typically the Ethereum blockchain, a rival platform to Bitcoin). Doing so usually costs anywhere from $40 to $200. they will then list their piece for auction on an NFT marketplace, almost like eBay.At face value, the entire enterprise seems absurd: big-money collectors paying six to eight figures for works which will often be seen and shared online for free of charge . Critics have dismissed the NFT art craze as just the newest bubble, like this year’s boom-and-bust mania around “meme stocks” like GameStop. The phenomenon is attracting a wierd brew of not just artists and collectors, but also speculators looking to urge rich off the newest fad.A bubble it's going to be. But many digital artists, uninterested after years of making content that generates visits and engagement on Big Tech platforms like Facebook and Instagram while getting almost nothing reciprocally , have lunged headlong into the craze. These artists of all kinds—authors, musicians, filmmakers—envision a future during which NFTs transform both their creative process and the way the planet values art, now that it’s possible to really “own” and sell digital art for the primary time. “You will have numerous people from different backgrounds and genres coming in to share their art, connect with people and potentially build a career,” Boykins says. “Artists put such a lot of their time—and themselves—into their work. to ascertain them compensated on an appropriate scale, it’s really comforting.” Technologists, meanwhile, say NFTs are the newest step toward a long-promised blockchain revolution that would radically transform consumer capitalism, with major implications for everything from home loans to health care.Digital art has long been undervalued, in large part because it’s so freely available. to assist artists create financial value for his or her work, NFTs add the crucial ingredient of scarcity. for a few collectors, if they know the first version of something exists, they’re more likely to crave the “authentic” piece. Scarcity explains why baseball-card collectors, as an example , are willing to pay $3.12 million for a bit of cardboard with an image of Honus Wagner, a legendary Pittsburgh Pirate. It’s also why sneakerheads obsess over the newest limited-edition drops from Nike and Adidas, and why “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli bought the only copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for $2 million in 2015.But baseball cards, sneakers which Wu-Tang CD all exist within the physical space, so it’s easier to know why they’re worth something. It are often harder to know why digital art, or the other digital file, has value.Some digital-art collectors say they’re paying not only for pixels but also for digital artists’ labor–in part, the movement is an attempt to economically legitimize an emerging kind . “I want you to travel on my collection and be like, ‘Oh, these are all unique things that stand out,'” says Shaylin Wallace, a 22-year-old NFT artist and collector. “The artist put such a lot work into it–and it had been sold for the worth that it deserved.” The movement is additionally taking shape after many folks have spent most of the past year online. If nearly your whole world is virtual, it is sensible to spend money on virtual stuff.The groundwork for the digital-art boom was laid in 2017 with the launch of CryptoKitties—think digital Beanie Babies. Fans have spent quite $32 million collecting, trading and breeding these images of wide-eyed one-of-a-kind cartoon cats. Video gamers, meanwhile, are pouring cash into cosmetic upgrades for his or her avatars—Fortnite players spent a mean of $82 on in-game content in 2019—further mainstreaming the thought of paying real-world money on digital goods. At an equivalent time, cryptocurrencies are booming in value, fueled partially by celebrity enthusiasts like Elon Musk and Mark Cuban. Bitcoin, as an example , is up quite 1,000% over the past year, and anything remotely crypto-adjacent—including NFTs—is getting swept up therein mania.Even as artists, collectors and speculators enjoy the NFT craze, the phenomenon isn't without its dark side. The barriers to entry—it costs money and requires tech savvy to sell an NFT—could prevent some creators from joining in on the action. Many are concerned that young artists of color particular are going to be overlooked , as they need long been marginalized within the “traditional” art world. Legal experts are scrambling to work out how existing copyright laws will interact with this new technology, as some artists have had their work copied and sold as an NFT without their permission. “It’s providing another platform for people to require advantage of other people’s work,” says artist Connor Bell, whose work was plagiarized and posted on an NFT marketplace.Then there are the environmental concerns. Creating NFTs requires a huge amount of raw computing power, and lots of of the server farms where that employment happens are powered by fossil fuels. “The environmental impact of blockchain may be a huge problem,” says Amy Whitaker, an professor of visual arts administration at ny University, though some cryptocurrency advocates argue these fears are overblown.Theoretically, climate-minded artists could move to some alternative blockchain platform with less environmental impact. They’re already finding ways to bend NFT technology in other beneficial ways. Some, for instance, are fixing their tokens so they’re compensated whenever their work is resold, like an actor getting a royalty check when their show airs as a rerun. Taiwanese tech startup Bitmark has started an NFT-like program to offer rights and royalties to music producers round the world. And artists who join NFT-based social media sites, like Friends With Benefits, receive fractional ownership within the platform and may receive direct compensation for the work they create through the network, in sharp contrast to existing tech giants like Facebook and Instagram.For technology evangelists, meanwhile, the NFT frenzy is simply more evidence of their long-held beliefs that cryptocurrency, and blockchain platforms more broadly, has the facility to vary the planet in profound ways. Blockchain technology has already been implemented in attempts to form voting safer in Utah, combat insurance fraud at Nationwide Insurance, and secure the medical data of several U.S. health care companies. Advocates say it could also help companies ensure transparency in their supply chains, streamline international logistic support efforts and reduce biases in historically racist loan-application processes.“The potential societal impact … is so important that we should always do everything in our power to form it manageable, environmentally and otherwise,” Whitaker says. “New idealistic technologies are always really imperfect in their rollout: they will have a speculative boom, and other people can misuse them in unsavory ways,” she adds. “I attempt to stay centered on what’s possible.”Learn more about buying NFT from MintonBlock digital assets investment fund
Which sub-Saharan African pre-colonial kingdom is the most interesting or your favourite, and why?
The Kingdom of Kongo.Kongo people - WikipediaDetailed and copious description about the Kongo people who lived next to the Atlantic ports of the region, as a sophisticated culture, language and infrastructure, appear in the 15th century, written by the Portuguese explorers.Later anthropological work on the Kongo of the region come from the colonial era writers, particularly the French and Belgians (Loango, Vungu, and the Niari Valley), but this too is limited and does not exhaustively cover all of the Kongo people. The evidence suggests, states Vansina, that the Kongo people were advanced in their culture and socio-political systems with multiple kingdoms well before the arrival of first Portuguese ships in the late 15th century.HistoriographyLeo Frobenius (1873-1938)Leo Frobenius, Histoire de la Civilisation AfricaineMore to the South in the Kingdom of Congo, a swarming crowd dressed in silk and velvet; great states well ordered, and even to the smallest details, powerful sovereigns, rich industries, -- civilized to the marrow of their bones.“The idea of the ‘barbarous Negro’ is a European invention, which has as a consequence, dominated Europe until the beginning of this century.Not because I am Congolese but for the following reasons:The Kingdom of Kongo was Atlantic Africa’s first truly globalised kingdom.The Kingdom of Kongo had embassies in Rome, in Holland, in Portugal and Brazil. Kongo ambassadors, Ne Vunda (Ambassador in Vatican) or Don Miguel de Castro (Ambassador in Brazil) became famous men and immortalized in European artistic representations. There is a bust of Ne Vunda in the Vatican. He died shortly after he arrived in Rome. The Pope's visited him on his deathbed,The “Maroon Kingdom” of Palmares was, in fact, an African colony, a satellite kingdom that the Kongos established even before Columbus “discovered” America.Duarte Pacheco Pereira, one of the most distinguished Portuguese sea captain wrote in his journal that the Kongos had established trade and diplomatic relationship with Native Americans in Brazil before the 15th. Palmares is also called angola janga (little Angola). Angola was once known as the Ndongo Kingdo, a vassal state of the Kingdom of Kongo.Here are suprising facts on the maritime history of the Kingdom of Kongo and its vassal states (Ndongo, Soyo, Loango) from the following links.Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth CenturyWarfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800Kongo: Power and MajestyOne rarely reads of Kongolese naval forces or exploits after the second half of the sixteenth century, though the tradition does seem to have been continued on the coast north of Kongo.In 1525 the King of the Congo captured a small French ship and delivered it with its crew to the Portuguese.One of these boats co-operated with a Portuguese vessel to capture a very strongly armed French ship off Soyo in 1525, partially by attacking and capturing a shore party that had landed on a longboat.The incident probably explains why a guide for French shippers in the central African region of about 1530 cautioned all who traded there not to pass any village but to wait for a boat to come to them from the shore and bring royal permission from Kongo.The king of Kongo of the same period was supposed to be able to assemble 800 of these [boats], probably along the Zaïre.Seventeenth-century Ngoyo was famous for its large fleet, whose sailors or rowers rode on large watercraft and in 1670 were sent to support Soyo in its war against a Portuguese invasion.Ndongo also employed fleets of rivercraft as its navy. One large army assembled in 1586 crossed the Lukala River on eight “great canoes”, each of which held 80–90 people.Cabindans, who had always been the most maritime of the societies of the Loango coast, developed a boat-building industry, operated river and coasting craft and were enlisted as crew on oceangoing steamers.https://www.cairn.info/revue-tumultes-2006-2-page-53.htmCourtesy of Google TranslateThe Municipality of Palmares: Benjamin Peret and the revolt of the slaves of colonial BrazilIn the following century, the German historian Heinrich Handelmann, in his Histoire du Brésil de 1860, analyzed the facts from the point of view of "white colonization": "We should regret the sad fate of the Palmares, but its destruction was a necessity . A complete Africanization of Alagôas, an African colony in the midst of European slave states, was something that could not be tolerated at all without seriously endangering the existence of white Brazilian colonization; the duty of his own conservation forced him to exterminate it2. The Kingdom of Kongo was a literate kingdom.The Kongos had a complex writing system and recorded their history on storyboards made of clay, ivory and wood. The Ngoyo, the Vili and many other Kongo groups had a writing system described as a hieroglyphic by Father Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi, an Italian missionary, who spent years in the Kingdom of Kongo in the 17th.Amazon.fr - Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Sign - Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz - LivresThe ancient Bakongo called graphic writing Sinsu kia Nguisami, a phrase that translates as “communication by code and symbol.” Still in use today in many parts of Central Africa, graphic writing includes signs known as bidimbu (symbols) and bisinsu (codes) . (Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz)Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Sign by Bárbaro MartínezRuiz is the most complete exploration and explanation of a specific indigenous African writing system, i.e., the bidimbu of the Bakongo people of Central Africa. As the text illustrates, this writing system had a profound influence in the formation of similar forms in the Caribbean and the Americas, such as firmas or gandó of Cuba, vèvè of Haiti, and pontos riscados of Brazil.The Kongos learn to read, draw, write and count in initiation schools who also taught technology and medicine. There were four of them: Lemba, Kimpasi, Kimba and Ndembo. They were suppressed by the Portuguese and later the Belgians. They went underground.Kongo graphic writing system exists in many forms, the oldest of which are:The "pictographic" form, which transcribes directly through the signs the sounds (verbal forms) of the language.The phonographic form: The signs have kept the same phonetic value or a value very close to the graphic form hat inspired them. Used for historical archives some of which are maintained between the museums of Tervuren, Rotterdam and the Vatican.The "logographic" / figurative form: signs are here associated with proverbs and understandable only in the context of the culture that produced them. This is the form that produces for example "proverb pot covers/lids", "initiatory vases and masks" etc.http://www.zyama.com/woyo/pics.htmlThe Woyo possess a form of writing that has not yet been studied. A special application of this writing occurs in their “proverb covers,” the lids of their realistically carved wooden “storied pots,” which serve as an ingenious means of communication between husband and wifeHere is a key passage on the literacy in the Kingdom of Kongohttps://www.cambridge.org/core/books/kongo-kingdom/to-make-book-a-conceptual-historical-approach-to-kongo-book-cultures-sixteenthnineteenth-centuries/5AA9AF7CB51D456B8681C06174EF14C7/core-readerhttps://www.cambridge.org/core/product/16E2909F83856F64F2FCBBA966D169B5/core-readerSoon after contact between Portugal and Kongo was established in 1482 there is evidence of the presence of books in the Kongo kingdom as the King of Portugal sent his colleague ‘everything that is necessary for a church’, crosses, organs, cruets, and also ‘many books’ (Brásio 1952 : 71). On other occasions as well, books were sent from Portugal to Kongo: a list of items sent in 1512 refers to ‘the books that are in the treasury to be packed and delivered to Álvaro Lopez, trained as a linguist’ (Br á sio 1952 : 252). Reportedly two German printers were also sent over, but they soon returned, as ‘the land was not healthy for Germans’ (Brásio 1954: 19).The Kongo nobility learnt to read and write in Portuguese and the upper layer of society studied Portuguese books related to Christianity .Apart from the letters written by King Afonso I to his Portuguese colleague (Brásio 1952 ; Jadin and Dicorato 1974 ), he himself was said to do ‘ … nothing but study and many times he falls asleep over the books, and many times he forgets to eat and drink for talking about the things of our Lord, and he is so absorbed by the things of the scripture that he even forgets himself’ (Br á sio 1952 : 361).There may be a hagiographic tendency in this letter, as it was sent by the king’s vicar to the Portuguese king. It is clear, however, that the king and his entourage were eager to become literate, and to put the new skills to use: the king took to writing letters and reading books. The quote falls within the parameters of classic studies on the acquisition of literacy, in which reading is viewed as a private and individual experience (Ong 1982). Other people in the Kongo kingdom may also have read books, letters, and other materials on a private and individual basis. At the same time, ‘the book’ may not have been limited to this.By far most books concerned Christian literature, although Afonso I also studied the entire book of Portuguese law, after requesting the Portuguese king for a copy, as the judge in Kongo told him it was no longer in his possession, he only having books in Latin (Brásio 1952: 356, 374– 5). This hints at private ownership of books: they were in individual possession and could only be borrowed with the owner’s consent. Another reference of non- Christian character is the letter by the Portuguese king that told Afonso I to keep a record book as a form of administration: ‘As in your kingdom there is reading and writing, you must adopt the manner of all Christian kings.To have account books and inscribe all the taxes and the names of the nobles’(Br á sio 1952 : 530). Yet Christian literature, including the Bible, hymn books, mass books, and catechisms, constitute the most frequently mentioned books in the Kongo kingdom. Apart from the spiritual books meant to inspire the Christian congregation in the Kongo kingdom, church life was also registered in books. Thus each baptism was noted in a book, as described by Dionigi Carli when he fell ill in 1668 in the province of Mbamba and still baptized ten to twelve children per day from his sickbed: ‘two blacks support me under the shoulders, another holds the book, and a third the baptistery’(du Cheyron d’Abzac 2006 : 134). Similarly, each matrimony was written down in a book (Jadin 1970: 437). There were books that listed all confessions made (Zucchelli 1712 : 175) and the names of people becoming knights in the military Order of Christ were listed in liuros da matricula (registration books) (Brásio 1955a : 553).Books in Kikongo were clearly in demand: the Spanish Capuchin Antonio de Teruel requested the printing of as many as seven books in Kikongo: ‘a manual for the people of Congo’, a catechism , a book of sermons and calendar ‘following their customs’, a book of feast days for the Virgin, a book of prayers for lay congregations, a ‘vocabulary in four languages, Latin, Italian, Spanish and Congolese’, and finally a ‘grammar and syntax to learn the language easily’ (Saccardo 1982 : 378; Thornton 2011d ). Books in other regional languages also became available: a first catechism in Kimbundu was printed in 1642 (Tavares and Santos 2002: 477).Kongo people integrated the notion of ‘books’ into their history, even if books remained rare and costly. Books were indeed precious items in the Kongo kingdom and highly valued. A document written by the end of the sixteenth century, found in the archives of the Vatican, stated: ‘Nearly all of them learn how to read so as to know how to recite the Divine Office; they would sell all they have to buy a manuscript or a book and if they have one, they always carry it by hand with their rosary which they say often and with devotion’ (Cuvelier and Jadin 1954: 131).Early references mostly concern the kingdom’s capital, Mbanza Kongo. Numerous references indicate the spread of literacy throughout the kingdom: Afonso I and his successors implemented an educational system for the nobility, largely led by the intellectual elite of the already mentioned mestres. Letter writing and literacy –usually in Portuguese – became important political instruments.Paper, ink, stamps with inscriptions, written certificates and permits, etc. were used in the administration of the church and of the court. Letters were exchanged between the capital and the provinces to ensure communication among the political- intellectual elite (Hilton 1985: 79– 80). In other words, literacy came to play a role in the process of centralization of the kingdom: cohesion in the kingdom was partly established through the Christian church, education, and the spread of literacy.Writing and literacy spread not only through the Kongo kingdom. After Luanda had been founded in 1575, Angola also formed a centre from where literacy spread, as testified by reports of pombeiro traders and Portuguese travellers (Tavares and Santos 2002: 475, 499). While some of the letters from and to the various regions of the kingdom can be found in Brásio’s volumes, the spread of books is more difficult to trace. Even so, the presence of books is attested to. Thus Queen Njinga of neighbouring Matamba brought ‘crosses, medals, rosaries, and spiritual books’ taken by her troops from the battlefield in the 1640s to Christian prisoners of war (de Castro and du Cheyron d’Abzac 2010 : 112).In the regions further north, in the polities of Kikongo , Ngoyo, and Loango , documents say very little about books in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was only with the upcoming overseas trade relations in the later seventeenth century that books came to play a more central role in these more northern regions. The broker states that were based on trade relations came to relate to books in a very different manner from the earlier Kongo Christian book tradition. Literacy was here related to trade: logbooks, inventories, account books, and contracts This later ‘bookness’ in the wider Kikongo- speaking regions took various, novel directions, not necessarily coinciding with European ideas about a book. Many of these belonged to non- syntactical, non- textual uses of writing (Goody 1986: 54).3. The history of the Kingdom of Kongo can only be described as tragic as it was destroyed by the Portuguese but it is also key to understanding why Africans ended up as being seeing as inferior by Europeans.As someone put it : The Portuguese encounter with Kongo began in wonder and ended in tragedy.Africa has two histories in the European discourse : before and after 15th.https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/lost-cities-in-the-sandsThe coming of the Portuguese is sometimes considered the beginning of African history — a story not about Africa itself, but about bemused Europeans exploring and taming a ‘dark’ continent. In The Golden Rhinoceros, the French historian François-Xavier Fauvelle turns the tables. He places the arrival of the Portuguese at the end of the story, as a rude interruption of what was in fact a golden age of African civilizationTHE DESTRUCTION OF THE KINGDOM OF KONGOThe Portuguese, for their part, continued to be impressed with the African kingdom. They recast the Kongo court in the image of the late medieval world: Kongo nobility were designated dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, and barons; their servants major-domos, chamberlains, squires, and cup-bearers.In 1508, when a young black woman arrived in Scotland, (off a wrecked pirate ship, possibly), King James IV held and won a royal joust in honor of “that ladye with the mekle lippis.” A century later, Shakespeare and Rembrandt gave to their portraits of Africans an intelligence and dignity that later centuries would scarcely credit, and dozens of lesser painters of the Italian and Northern Renaissance sprinkled their canvases with images of blacks that were no more or less condescending than their image of Europeans. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century the Pope and the secular kings of Europe welcomed African potentates to their courts, and treated them with all the deference due royalty.But slavery needed a myth to sustain and justify itself.So in the bedrooms of the Brazilian sugar estates, where oriental drapery wilted from balustrades in the humid air, and from the lecterns of the cathedrals that the missionaries built on the fetid islands of the Atlantic, stories took root of the African as a tom-tom player and a devil-worshiper, an uncivilized savage, a sex-fiend and cheerful submissive. ““The people of Guinea,” wrote one German scientist in the eighteenth century, “are more insensible than others towards pain and natural evils, as well as towards injurious and unjust treatment. In short, there are none so well adapted to be the slaves of others, and who therefore have been armed with so much passive obedience.” And Thomas Carlyle proclaimed, dizzily, “Before the West Indies could grow a pumpkin for any Negro, how much European heroism had to spend itself in obscure battle; to sink, in mortal agony, before the jungles, the putrescences and waste savageries could become arable, and the Devils in some measure chained up!”In this ideological transformation the Kingdom of the Kongo played a pivotal role.For it was with the discovery and exploitation of the Kongo, coming hard upon the establishment of the Atlantic sugar plantation, that the European demand for slaves was re-kindled, and the identification of slavery and race made explicit. In the century prior to 1482, the number of black slaves taken annually from Africa numbered, at most, in the hundreds. Most worked in Mediterranean Europe as household servants, hospital orderlies, garbage collectors, or in similar, menial positions. Color at that time was no bar to servitude: Greeks, Turks, Russians, Slavs, and Cretans were also enslaved, and most of the very first slaves shipped to Brazil were white. But after 1482, the number of slaves coming from Africa rose dramatically.By 1550, a Portuguese ditty could sum up Europe’s changing perception of Africa, and of the Kongo in particular:uns aos outros se vendem;& ha muitos merdadores que nisso somente entemdem;& hos enganam & prendem;& trazem aos tratadores.(They sell each other there are many merchants whose specialty it is to trick and capture them and sell them to the slavers.)Thus the question of who could enslave whom, and under what conditions, which had been a topic of lively debate in the early years of the European discovery and conquest of the New World, received a decisive answer. The die was cast: even today-some three hundred years after the Battle of Mbwila—thriller novels and college bars still borrow the Kongo’s name for its suggestion of the primitive. The old kingdom, its territory neatly bisected by the border between present-day Angola and Zaire, continues to exert an atavistic attraction, like an out-of-the-way theater in a once-fashionable neighborhood, where, on sporadic afternoons, the lights darken and the silent films still run.