Kenya: Another First for Kipchoge After Making Debut on NFT

In what is arguably Kenya's first NFT auction, marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge has auctioned off two videos of his career highlights for $37,351.07 (Ksh4 million).

The auction winner received the artwork in high quality and a personal video message from Kipchoge to congratulate the new owner, according to Momentible, the online platform that hosted the event on April 8, 2021. Momentible specialises in memorabilia from the world of sports and music, and the bidding took place on OpenSea, a peer-to-peer marketplace for the sale of singular digital items.

Kipchoge broke the marathon world record in Berlin in September 2018 with a time of 2:01:39. He then rose to new heights in May 2019 when he won the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria, becoming the first person to run a full marathon in under two hours. It is digital images of these two events that were auctioned as Non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

NFTs are a type of crypto art put up for sale or auction, with payment normally done in cryptocurrencies. A vast range of unique and rare collectibles can be turned into NFTs including music, films, videos, and digital artwork. The items are deposited on a blockchain system that stores electronic information, and from where it is possible to verify ownership of the piece.

Digital images

Originality and provenance are the basis of an NFT's value although the buyer ultimately determines the sale price. NFTs are said to be impossible to forge but can be resold multiple times, with ownership tracked along the way. However, the original owner retains copyright.

The world gasped collectively in March 2021 when American digital artist "Beeple" (Mike Winkelmann) auctioned an NFT artwork for over $69 million at a Christie's online auction. Everydays: The First 5000 Days is a collage collection of Beeple's digital images from his Everyday series. Bought by a client in Singapore, this "third most expensive work sold by a living artist" undoubtedly helped push NFT to mainstream of the artworld. Soon after, prestigious auction houses Sotheby's and Phillips went on to publicise upcoming NFT auctions as have many art galleries worldwide.

With the Kipchoge NFT auction, Kenya joins a small group of African countries that have hopped onto the crypto bandwagon. Digital artist Prince Jacon Osinachi of Nigeria is recognised as Africa's "foremost crypto artist" with figurative works that explore family, culture and sexual identity.

In 2018, he became the first Nigerian to feature at the Ethereal Summit, a conference for connecting blockchain technology, artists and entrepreneurs.

South Africa, the continent's leading arts market, announced in March the launch its first NFT auction. The artwork is a digital portrait with movable elements and created by local artist Norman O'Flynn.

Presented by Worldart Gallery of Cape Town, it is expected to fetch between R60,000 and R100,000 ($4,170-$6,950).

Afro-renaissance

Senegalese-American music celebrity Akon announced the launch of his own platform for NFTs. The AkoinNFT platform has come on the back of a difficult year for the arts industry in the wake of Covid-19 and is meant to assist creatives create, design and distribute their works as cryptographic assets.

Back in Kenya, the digital media company Picha Images has gone crypto with a series of Afro-renaissance photographs by co-founder Rich Allela and converted into NFTs. Allela note that Picha Images wants to empower artists to "maintain the copyright of their work and earn from secondary sales," adding that the auction highlights the value of art as an investment worth making.

Nevertheless, the meteoric rise of non-fungible tokens has recently raised outcry in environmental circles over their negative impact on the environment. The majority of crypto art is stored in the Ethereum cryptocurrency blockchain. However, electricity consumption for mining the digital tokens leaves a heavy carbon footprint.

"So one token equals one month of electricity," said Austrian architect Chris Precht, whose studio backed down from promoting NFTs after identifying the environmental impact.

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