Let's brand the metaverse with J'can NFT lifestyle?
Digital artist Pak's work,The Merge, fetchedUS$91.8 million on NiftyGateway.

I love, collect, and value art, particularly from Caribbean artists. My most-treasured piece is a charcoal nude by the famous Jamaican artist George Rodney given to me by my husband many years ago, which hangs prominently amidst a collection in our home.

If you were to think of something in your personal space that holds tangible value, what would it be? A piece of artwork, a unique piece of jewellery, a memorable picture, or something you wrote?

What if that thing you held dear became a digital asset and you could share it with the world? Then what would it be worth? Now hold that thought and come with me through an interesting looking glass between December 2 to 4, 2021, when the contemporary definition of art exhibits, bidding, and purchase took on a new meaning. It so happened that artwork called The Merge was sold online within a nonfungible token (NFT) marketplace for US$91.8 million. This piece is now held digitally by 28,983 collectors.

What's an NFT? And, why are celebrities buying them?

Some 174 years ago Robert Richards Torrens developed a registration system for titles that allowed for a central register to record the legitimate owner of a property and provide that owner with a duplicate certificate confirming their ownership. This system was the foundation for real estate commerce and mortgage financing.

Fast-forward to the 1990s, when the Internet revolutionised our world. Today, if you search your bank balance online, those funds are not physically sitting in the bank. You see an “I owe you” from the bank to pay that amount on demand in the denominated currency.

We already depend on computers to account for our currency ownership, so why not everything else we own? The next phase of the Internet, referred to as Web3 or Web 3.0, is here, and the world you've become accustomed to is morphing into a digital one with each passing day.

Now you can digitally register ownership of anything with cloud registration, also known as a blockchain, to which everyone has access. Last year, the psychological hype around digital value confused people in the main as to what was a token, and why were Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT tokens being resold for millions of US dollars online?

An NFT is a unique certificate of registration of a digital asset or a one-of-a-kind digital asset that belongs only to you. It is a unique unit of data employing technology that allows digital content to be logged and authenticated on cryptocurrency blockchains, primarily Ethereum. Once the content is logged onto the blockchain, every transaction from transfers to sales is recorded on-chain, creating an easily accessible ledger of provenance and price history.

NFTs can be individual or part of a collection, allowing their owners to feel as though they are joining an exclusive online community. The most popular NFTs right now include artwork and music, but videos and a personal tweet ( Fortune, December 18, 2021).

There are mainly two types of NFTs — one-off art visuals sold as non-fungible tokens similar to actual paintings, and NFT collections or projects, like the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), which is a template or production of hundreds of thousands of rare individual variations. These images of the BAYC are a series of one of the most distinguished NFT collections in the world. A collection of 10,000 different digital images depicting an ape with varying personality traits and visual attributes. This young series was launched in late April 2021 by a team of four pseudonymous developers: Gargamel, Gordon Goner, Emperor Tomato Ketchup, and No Sass.

It's about membership!

When I first heard NFTs I asked why buy something I could screenshot for free? The truth is they are not free, as artists create smart contracts of their work on an NFT market platform like OpenSea, SuperRare, Nifty Gateway, and Foundation. This contract ensures that the artist, or other parties, receive royalties each time the NFT is sold. But the actual value of an NFT isn't in the visuals of a piece; it's the membership into exclusive online clubs which serve as a form of digital identity for its owner to receive commercial usage rights, where they can sell any spin-off product based on the art.

Additionally, the tokens act as identification cards to give the owners access to anything and everything creative and urban online. For example, the minimum cost to join the BAYC is approximately US$224,000. In other words, “You're not just buying the product; you're becoming a member of this community, it's a flip of the normal business model where we make stuff and hope people will buy it,” indicated TareqNazlawy, Adidas senior director of digital growth.

The metaverse is here and growing every day; whether you choose to accept it, you need to understand it. Experts say it is essential to the next phase of the Internet, and top brands are wasting no time to develop original NFT products that can trade in this alternate universe. For example, Adidas Originals, the fashion and lifestyle subdivision of the German sportswear giant, is launching an NFT collection of both physical and digital products through digital and physical comic books, created in collaboration with a host of trending metaverse players — social media profile pic (PFP) phenomenon BAYC, NFT influencer Gmoney, and comics series Punks Comics.

Members of the Adidas drop app, called Confirmed, get an exclusive early access NFT badge (where only 8,000 were issued) to buy into the metaverse and receive digital items from wearing in metaverse world. This exclusivity also allows them to purchase one-of-a-kind physical products to wear in real life and access extraordinary digital and physical experiences. ( Vogue Business 2022)

Jamaica is a top-rated brand for food and lifestyle. Our national stars have also given us global superstardom on the track and in music. We are a global brand. However, we have not benefited economically from this value, while others use our intrinsic labels such as reggae, Jamaican Jerk, and 'Made in Jamaica'. The world has now entered a new phase, and there is the possibility for a teenager in Brazil to design, own, and sell digital Jamaican NFT products, iconic images, and historical moments 100,000 times over. In fact, people could travel to “Virtual Reality JA” without stepping on a plane.

Therefore, this is a call to action for our Jamaican artists, musicians, and content creators to monetise their content by leapfrogging their minds to this new reality of digital ownership, management, and sale. If Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey could sell his first tweet as an NFT for US$2.9 million to a buyer in Asia, and Lebron James could turn his “cosmic” dunk video into an NFT for US$397,600, then the sky is the limit.

Lisa Hanna is Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern, People’s National Party spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade, and a former Cabinet member.

Jamaican NFTs have already started to grow in numbers
Lisa Hanna
Lisa Hanna

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