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Amplifying Black and Diverse Histories the Focus of New Wikimedia Foundation Collaboration with African Artist

The Wikimedia Foundation, the global nonprofit that operates Wikipedia, announced the launch of Wiki Unseen, a collaboration with artists aimed at expanding the visual representation of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) in Wikimedia projects and advancing knowledge equity.

The commissioned artists include Enam Bosokah from Ghana, Esther Griffith from Trinidad, and Bukhtawar Malik from the United States. Among the first articles that will feature new illustrations are: Marian Ewurama AddyWilliam GreavesRose Dieng-KuntzMay MillerMercedes Richards, and Asquith Xavier. These portraits were published throughout February; they include personalities whose images are not freely licensed and therefore unable to be added to Wikipedia articles. 

Portrait of May Miller by Bukhtawar Malik.

Bukhtawar Malik is a New York-based Illustrator. Bukhtawar is originally from Pakistan and moved to the United States in 2016 where she completed her Associate’s degree in Illustration from The Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, USA. She is currently doing her bachelor’s degree in Illustration with minors in Art History and Colour Studies from The Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, USA. Bukhtawar is a versatile hyper-realistic illustrator. She works in various mediums including Oil paints, Acrylics, Printmaking, Ink, Digital, Watercolour and Chalk. Bukhtawar’s powerful storytelling work is unique in her use of intricate detail. She does Human portraits and Animal paintings with a very realistic style. Bukhtawar’s works have been exhibited at the Pakistan National Council of Arts and she is currently working on a science book of diseases and medical conditions. Here, Bukhtawar tells us more about her contribution to this important project.

ART AFRICA: Expanding the visual representation of Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) is a crucial issue. How did it feel to be one of the selected artists dealing with this pressing issue?

Bukhtawar Malik: It is an honour to be a part of this project as it contributes to the preservation of heritage. I am honoured to serve as a voice for people from diverse backgrounds, helping them to receive the recognition and equality they deserve.

Which historical figures were you commissioned to create portraits for? How did the process of creating these figures impact you?

I was commissioned to illustrate two historical figures from the United States – William Greaves and May Miller. William Greaves was a documentary filmmaker of African descent with over 200 documentaries being directed and produced by him. His films are very important in that they shed light on complex social issues such as equality and the fight for social justice. He has inspired me, and I plan to incorporate more social issues into my illustrations.

Portrait of William Greaves by Bukhtawar Malik.

Miller was a poet and playwright of African American descent. I chose her because of the respect she expressed in her writings for the black community. Her writings have inspired me to use people of colour in my illustrations to support people from diverse backgrounds. This is an amazingly empowering and awareness-raising project.

How would you like to see your participation influencing other artists?

I hope to inspire other artists to represent different cultures to assist them in achieving equality. I believe in equality, and I hope that my work inspires artists to tell more of the untold stories about people of colour and to help people understand history better.

For more information about the Wikimedia Foundation and Wiki Unseen, visit unseen.wikimedia.org. To learn more about how the Wikimedia Foundation and movement are working towards knowledge equity, visit wikimediafoundation.org/opentheknowledge.

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