The Wikimedia Foundation, the global nonprofit that operates Wikipedia, has announced the launch of Wiki Unseen, a collaboration with artists from Africa, America, and the Caribbean aimed at expanding the visual representation of black, indigenous, and people of color in Wikimedia projects and advancing knowledge equity.
The partnership with artists from Africa, North America, and the Caribbean will help to address the underrepresentation of several Black historical figures on Wikipedia and in the Wikimedia Commons media repository. In addition, the Foundation is working with AfroCROWD.org, a Wikipedia-led campaign to generate and update knowledge about Black culture and history on Wikipedia, as well as Behance, a social media platform that promotes the initiative’s creative output.
“Wiki Unseen aims to make Black histories and those of other people underrepresented on Wikipedia more visible,” said Anusha Alikhan, Vice President of Communications at the Wikimedia Foundation. “Closing knowledge equity gaps — including visual ones — is key to ensuring Wikimedia projects are accessible to everyone and represent the breadth of the world’s cultures, experiences, and languages. We know that our work is incomplete until the diversity of our world’s histories are seen.”
According to research, illustrations in Wikipedia articles boost audience engagement and views, providing a new point of entry for visual learners and expanding their knowledge of the information offered. With this in mind, the Wikimedia Foundation and AfroCROWD.org collaborated to identify 20 Wikipedia articles on BIPOC historical leaders that lacked visual representation, as well as a list of artists from the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean to make portraits of each. This year, the artists will paint portraits of six of the 20 historical personalities that will be featured.
Enam Bosokah of Ghana, Esther Griffith of Trinidad, and Bukhtawar Malik of the United States are among the commissioned painters. Marian Ewurama Addy, William Greaves, Rose Dieng-Kuntz, May Miller, Mercedes Richards, and Asquith Xavier are among the first authors to receive new artwork. These portraits will be published throughout February, and they will include people whose images are not publicly licensed, making them ineligible for inclusion in Wikipedia articles.
Wikipedia is powered by a global community of volunteer contributors working to advance Wikimedia projects with the goal of ensuring that everyone in the world has access to the sum total of human knowledge. The Wikimedia Movement’s 2030 strategy focuses on breaking down the social, political, and technical barriers that prohibit individuals from accessing and contributing to free knowledge, with a particular focus on communities marginalized by power and privilege structures.
Wiki Unseen builds on past Wikimedia volunteer efforts, such as Les sans pagEs, a French Wikipedia initiative, and the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign by Whose Knowledge?, which ran similar projects to bridge gender gaps.