NFTs and blockchain bridge Ethiopia’s past and present in new art exhibition

America’s first major institutional exhibition of Ethiopian art throughout the ages will conclude its year-long tour at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) with a grand finale featuring non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

In June, TMA announced that the blockchain-based Ethiopian art collective Yatreda will be their second digital artist in residence, following the Nigerian-based non-fungible token (NFT) star Osinachi’s residency in 2023.

This year, Yatreda will stage a special installation within TMA’s iteration of “Ethiopia at the Crossroads,” which TMA co-curated with the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

Yatreda’s contribution, titled “House Of Yatreda,” will feature loans of some of their most famous NFTs and debut a new series, too. Together, it will bridge the historical relics in “Ethiopia at the Crossroads” with cutting-edge art from Ethiopia today.

Yatreda has already started embedding with TMA, embarking on the duties of this year’s expanded residency program by getting to know Toledo, discussing details for “House of Yatreda” with TMA’s curators, and mentoring local painter Jordan Buschur. This fall, the residency culminates with a Christie’s sale featuring works by Yatreda — and Buschur’s first mint.

The announcement that Yatreda will be this year’s digital artist in residence arrived just a week after TMA announced its new TMA Labs, a department devoted to scouting new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and Web3, to support data and operating efficiencies.

“Ink and leather” become “blockchain and video”

As a collective, Yatreda alchemizes Ethiopia’s oft-overlooked history and national pride into black and white, animated photographs of historical fictions minted entirely on Ethereum. 

Ethiopia is one of only two African nations never colonized. Each year, Adwa Victory Day commemorates their conquest over would-be colonizers.

But, Yatreda’s founder and leader, Kiya Tadele, noticed that while Ethiopians…

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