Art and history collide with this awesome project by Wikimedia Foundation and Behance. I love reading about history and the world around me, so when I was commissioned to illustrate historical figures from the past, I was very excited.
I feel that as artists we have a special role as visual storytellers. We document the world around us, which complements history. In doing so we shine a light on people who stepped out of their comfort zone to accomplish noteworthy things. I chose to illustrate two such persons: Asquith Xavier (pictured above) and Mercedes Richards (seen below). They were both Caribbean natives, and trailblazers in their own right.
Asquith was a Dominican born Briton from the Windrush generation. He was the first black railway guard at Euston station in England. This was no small feat, considering the strongly entrenched prejudices against Black workers in Britain at the time. Mercedes hailed from Jamaica and was a brilliant woman, being an astrophysicist. While I'm sure that I wouldn't understand most of what she said on any given day, what I love about her was her approach to learning. She once said in an interview that she wanted her students to have "a love of learning" and "a passion for science and a passion for discovery... not just science because science and arts are all blended together." I feel that way as well.
In my opinion, this project has far reaching benefits. Firstly, it helps to make Wikipedia encyclopaedia more robust, because it puts faces to people who before had very little or no imagery. It also makes research of these historical figures, particularly those of BIPOC background, much easier. Additionally, it helps us tell the stories of persons who made valid contributions, but who would have gone "unseen" for a long time. I'd definitely encourage illustrators to contribute to Wikipedia in this way.