We had an impressive turnout of more than 45 creatives, artists, educators and entrepreneurs from across the island of Curaçao last Friday for the first of many meet-ups to discuss the upcoming launch of a new Caribbean NFT marketplace.
An NFT, short for non-fungible token, is a unique digital certificate, registered in a blockchain, that is used to record ownership of an asset such as an artwork or a collectible. They’re all the rage in both the digital and physical art world — Collins Dictionary designated NFT as its word of the year for 2021.
Still, NFTs are a new concept for many, and the Amberfi team was intent on making sure the new marketplace has buy-in from the artists community as the project is being built under a commission by Curinde, short for the Curaçao Industrial & International Trade Development Co.
With the help of several local organizations, we put on a series of presentations titled “NFT Awakening,” drawing on my background as an art advisor to Amberfi and long-time Caribbean curator, activist and community organizer. Our goal was not just to provide a preview of the upcoming marketplace and the promise of NFTs to support the livelihoods of creatives but to hear the concerns and gather ideas from fellow artists and locals.
The meetings detailed the importance of NFT advocacy and education about blockchain along with giving attendees an understanding as to how this new technology can support livelihoods, provide autonomy from intermediaries and add to social good across Caribbean communities. The participants felt it important that the new platform for creatives convey an understanding and appreciation for the emergence and urgency for the Caribbean digital economy and its evolution.
Lusette Verboom, director of Gallery Alma Blou, created a welcoming environment, hosting us with open arms and charisma in Landhuis Habaai, the oldest and largest art gallery in Curaçao, featuring exquisite and eclectic contemporary and traditional artworks.
After the gathering, Lusette said, “I want to thank you for approaching Gallery Alma Blou to host this informative session about Amberfi and the valuable presentation about NFTs. The information provided by Amberfi gave us a valuable insight about how the organization can be of help to get the Curaçao art world into the NFT market. We are looking forward to your guidance and expertise to make sure that Curaçao art is well represented in the digital marketplace.”
At Instituto Buena Bista (IBB), the evening session started with a studio site visit with contemporary artist Tirzo Martha, who joined virtually to share with us the development of his new body of work, which gave context to the history of the IBB. An invaluable center for contemporary art in Curaçao, the IBB provides creative youths with a two-year creative and/or artistic preparatory course to formalize their education. As the only educational space dedicated to furthering art practice on the island, these meetings mark the first entry by Amberfi and Curinde into the local art and arts education space cementing relationships to further dialogues around the NFT marketplace, blockchain technology and building more formidable partnerships to support engagement, exchange and training.
Daniel Oleana, assistant manager at Curinde, which operates two free economic trade zones in the region, accompanied us to these first gatherings and was impressed by the turnout. “Rather than trying to oversell or force the idea of an NFT marketplace, we were able to connect smoothly with local participants and were accepted with open arms,” he said. “Everyone is really warming up to the NFT marketplace, knowing that it was born right here in Curaçao as a part of the Caribbean. For Curinde, it is truly humbling to be able to work alongside Amberfi’s professional and highly motivated team. Together, we are certainly looking forward to launching a well-thought, intuitive and inclusive marketplace.”
NFT Awakening accomplished what the title of the event intended. The meetings were a touchstone for those on the island to understand the intention of Curinde and to speak in very real ways about the challenges faced in Curaçao around networking, community and the sale of artwork. In addition, the feedback rendered across both spaces bring new voices and volume to the need for practical and efficient access to educational material, dispelling myths around NFTs, blockchain technologies and routes of inclusion.
Ellyse Amelia Trethric, director of community at Amberfi, added, “We have been meeting with creatives remotely over the last two months and feel their enthusiasm! It has been brilliant to speak to so many talented creators who are passionate about learning the new digital landscape that the blockchain can bring to their communities and how together we can truly create actionable change.”
These gatherings will help to guide, inform and refine the dynamics and the realities of the NFT marketplace and aid in the needed guidance, compassion and constructiveness needed to further the development of the region within the digital landscape. Creators, merchants, galleries, brands and businesses deserve a deeper connection within Web3, and Amberfi is here to provide that every step of the way.
I personally can’t wait to expand these gatherings within our entire region and give everyone a chance to be a part of this growing digital economy. It has been an honor to meet with more than 100 artists over the past two months, and I look forward to what is to come for our communities.