Asif Kamal, founder and CEO of art technology company Artfi, told Decrypt that his company has put Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) maker Yuga Labs on legal notice—after sustaining an eye infection and facial burns last week in Hong Kong at ApeFest.
Kamal’s decision to lawyer up follows reports of ApeFest attendees succumbing to eye injuries, allegedly due to an improper lighting setup at the festival’s venue.
“I don’t want the price of Apes, [the BAYC] community, Yuga Labs, or anyone who has supported this Web3 ecosystem to suffer,” he said. “But neglecting it is something that has offended me so much.”
After ApeFest attendees reported severe eye pain, Yuga told Decrypt on Monday that it was still investigating the situation and “taking it seriously.” Twitter users have hypothesized that UV-C bulbs, intended for disinfection, were used instead of blacklights in lighting the three-day event.
Yuga Labs did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Decrypt.
In response to his experience last week—which Kamal said involved a brief trip to Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where English-speaking staff was frustratingly uncommon—Artfi said that he sent Yuga a “legal notice.” Kamal described the letter to Yuga as a “first step toward suing them.”
“I felt helpless,” he said of his hospital trip, where medical staff attached a device to his face that regularly flushed his eyes with a cold solution. “I felt blind for hours, and I felt vulnerable.”
In a statement on Monday, Yuga estimated that “much less than 1%” of ApeFest’s 2,250 attendees had symptoms suggesting eye-related issues. Still, it encouraged “anybody who feels them” to seek out medical attention as a precaution.
🙏 Let’s create change together! I’m petitioning for Enhanced Safety Measures at Public Events. The incident in Hong Kong at @yugalabs @BoredApeYC fest was a harsh reminder of how precious our safety is. I nearly lost my eyesight, enduring immense pain and anxiety.
— Asif Kamal (@iamasifkamal) November 7, 2023
On Wednesday, the 33-year-old CEO wore a pair of Marc Jacob shades during a video interview with Decrypt, while speaking from Dubai. Photos he shared from the day before revealed a patch of peeling skin on his forehead.
“It’s better than the first day, but not 100%,” Kamal said of his ability to see, adding that his vision is still hazy and it feels like he has “small darts” in the corner of one eye.
Before Kamal traveled to Hong Kong—the location for this year’s annual festival hosted by Yuga for Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFT owners—he said he owned a Mutant Ape. Kamal said he bought a $60,000 Bored Ape in front of BAYC co-founder Greg “Garga” Solano “to support the community.”
Kamal said two other attendees that he knows are dealing with similar symptoms after attending ApeFest. And moving forward, he hopes Yuga will take safety precautions at its events.
“You cannot neglect human safety […] when the people in your community have supported you to make billions of dollars,” he said, adding that it’s called “ApeFest, but humans are there.”