With the creation of NFTs of the destroyed buildings and cars painted with sunflowers and crypto millionaire Brock Jeffrey Pierce’s commitment to purchase, the use of blockchain-based finance has entered a new era in humanitarian aid.
The project’s creator, Trek Thunder Kelly, a US-based artist, along with Ukrainian artist Helen Yanko, has just completed six murals depicting Ukrainian sunflowers in communities around Kyiv that were badly destroyed during the Russian occupation.
“I’ve been reflecting on the situation of my professional and personal network, and artists have been one of the most vulnerable groups since the beginning of the war. Since it is highly unlikely that individuals will pay for art in this day and age, artists can offer their time and skills through this missing piece that has now surfaced. – Oleksiy Burak, co-creator
Ukrainians have always had a strong connection with sunflowers. Not only do they symbolize the color of the national flag of Ukraine, but they are also a leading agricultural product in the country. Ukraine was the world’s largest producer of sunflower oil and sunflower meal before the Russian invasion decimated the industry.
“Traditionally, blockchain has been used in finance for digital payments through cryptocurrencies. As technology advances and people engage with it, new applications of blockchain are emerging, connecting different actors in society in ways that are neither obvious nor expected. In research, we call this phenomenon “reframing,” a shift in perception and use of a technology. Marrying the need to rebuild infrastructure with digital art and decentralized finance could be an appealing reorientation for blockchain.” — Mattia Bianchi, Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics.
Painting murals and cars is not just an act of applying a “temporary art-based bandage” to wounds in war-torn communities. The novelty is the use of blockchain-based funding to fund humanitarian work.
The growing popularization of blockchain-based technology, room for the appearance of novel triangulations that seemed far-fetched not so long ago. Blockchain has allowed users to profit from selling their Wi-Fi signal to others using Helium, or profit from users connected to a crowdfunding cellular infrastructure such as World Mobile in countries like Zanzibar. The triangulation between technology, artists and charities is just another new frontier that has been crossed.
Although Helium and Worldmobile are very different solutions, users are being paid for their participation in the cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem, shifting their use of crypto from asset classes to payments and utilities.
The Flowers For Hope (FFH) project has a novel modus operandi that the founders hope will be emulated in other conflict zones. Local artists paint Ukrainian national symbols on “murals,” which are graphic artworks painted directly onto walls, ceilings, or structures like a car.
The finished paintings will be digitized as NFTs and offered to collectors, investors, philanthropists and the public. At least 80% of the money raised from the sale of these artworks will go back to both the artists and the local charity Women and War, which provides psychological support to those affected by the turmoil of war.
Similar to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which spends up to 19% on fundraising and administration costs, FFH strives for an equivalent level of administration costs. Today, the umbrella organization Beatify Earth, which provides the legal structure, handles costly international transfers, and Roji, which hosts the NFT platform, are responsible for the majority of management fees.
“The legal status of NFTs is already a complex issue. This project shows how NFTs can be used for a good cause and how many more levels of complexity can arise from the already established questions.– Nicoll Corallius – Project Advisor
Once the pilot is complete, it is expected to increase in both complexity and intensity. In Stockholm, where the project originated as a pro bono joint venture between Kelly, Swedish executives, a paint manufacturing company and members of the Polish startup community based in Sweden, Polish Ambassador to Sweden SE Joanna Hofman sees a Another potential aspect – which is taking place not only inside Ukraine, but also in other neighboring countries.
She sees the possibility that Ukrainian artists with murals in Paris, Brussels or other European capitals will provide additional help with reconstruction and ensure that societies do not become war-weary as gas and oil prices rise.
Trek Kelly sees potential in working with external partners who could embed tangible ds into the NFTs. For example, for subscriptions to services like Netflix or Amazon Prime to provide additional incentives to the philanthropic community that would increase the popularization of the project.
Kelly envisions a multifaceted platform bringing together art collectors, local Ukrainian NGOs and artists with the aim of providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine – but the fine print is to be decided after an evaluation of the completed pilot project.
The community of Irpin has already agreed to provide more walls for artists who want to explore the idea. Aiming at “positive reframing” by combining blockchain-based funding with humanitarian aid, the project aims to be replicable in nearby jurisdictions under the same umbrella organizations. However, the beauty of the decentralized umbrella organization is that the project can still be replicated today without the involvement of the core team members mentioned above.
Edited by: Grace Marshall & Sajid Nadeem