Representation Matters in Art
2017 and 2018 featured some of the biggest box office hits of all time! Among them were hits like Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Incredibles 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Fate of the Furious, and Aquaman. ¿How many of these hits featured lead Latinx actors? Three: Zoe Saldana as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avenger, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty in The Fate of the Furious, and Oscar Isaac in Star Wars and The Last Jedi. Not bad, ¿right?
Wrong! According to a study by The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, only 3% of the 100 top-grossing movies from 2007-2018 starred Latino actors, and less than 5% of the speaking roles featured Latino actors. The bottom line is that there is very little representation of Afro-Latino characters in the world of visual entertainment and other media. Thankfully, artists like Isidra Sabio are making sure that positive images of the Afro-Latino and Garifuna community are represented and known worldwide.
Isidra Sabio is an award-winning scientist, agricultural engineer, artist, and immigrant. She was born and raised in a Garifuna community in the north coast of Honduras, Central America. As a child, Sabio was exposed to negative images and stereotypes of Black people portrayed in films and other media. She realized that representation must be displayed in positive and dignified ways and decided to draw people in her community that looked like her. Sabio says, “representation is everything. It builds resilience, self-esteem and helps students do better in school. Children need to know their history, be proud of their ancestors and see images that look like them.”
Sabio’s art does just that. She creates beautiful and colorful Afrocentric paintings that create awareness about the Garifuna community and Afro-Latinos. Her art has been displayed in solo exhibits in New York and in Washington, D.C., sold nationally and internationally. As a black woman herself, Sabio’s art also captures the inner and outer strength of black women. Additionally, Sabio is an author of several children’s books that teach young children Garifuna history, culture, and language as well as an illustrator of children’s books about the beauty of their natural black hair.
“The face of the country is changing”, says Sabio, and I could not agree more. In fact, experts say that by 2050, people of color will be the majority in the United States. It is extremely important that our education system teaches children about the contributions of Afro-Latinos and that the media and visual entertainment reflect our society. Until then, “artivists” like Isidra Sabio are “heroes de impacto y esperanza”; people who are making sure that the Garifuna and Afro-Latinos receive the representation and visibility they deserve.