At any given time, no matter how you may be feeling, there’s probably a GIF to perfectly encapsulate that emotion. And, while GIFs can express a spectrum of feelings and experiences, they are also a crucial tool for expressing your identity online.
GIPHY, the world's largest online database of GIFs, realises the important role art, design, and media can play in building community and solidarity. Recently, their platform created a new space to elevate this potential: GIPHY Identity. GIPHY Identity has a collection of countless identity-related gifs for LGBTQ, Muslim, Indigenous communities, and more.
GIPHY has collaborated with artists like Tenbeete Solomon (also known as Trap Bob), to create a diverse array of GIF-related projects that elevate communities of colour. “GIPHY allows me to create work I truly believe in, especially covering themes like celebrating people of colour and empowering women,” says Solomon.
Cat Powell, Community Development Manager at GIPHY, believes projects like these are crucial. "At GIPHY, we are continually inspired by the incredible work being done by the talented artists in our community and appreciate any opportunity to bring more awareness to their content,” says Powell.
For their latest collaboration, GIPHY has teamed up with Refinery29 Unbothered, Refinery29’s Instagram account and initiative for Black women and femme empowerment. The project collaborated with seven Black femme illustrators and animators to create designed GIFs depicting Black culture. The goal? To inspire mainstream media companies to have more diversity in their visuals and Black creators to keep creating.
“We often make Instagram stories specifically for Black women, and there's never much imagery to choose from,” says McMillian, Social Media Editor for @r29unbothered and @29rooms. McMillian says that, in the past, when they have searched for things like "hair flip," there weren’t many Black-centric options to choose from. “We want to fill that void for ourselves and Black creators at large.”
“For a long time, I was not proud enough of my Afro heritage and multiculturality,” says Aurélia Durand, one of the artists in the collaboration. “Art has helped me to embrace myself and connect with others; I feel empowered when I see that people can relate and see a part of themselves in my visuals.”
Shanée Benjamin, another collaborator, also sees art as an opportunity for true representation, one in which Black women have space to truly be heard and regarded as culture-creators: "A lot of Black women are used as props, but they don't really hear what we're saying. They don't see how we set trends for the culture.”
Edinah Chewe (also known as Wild Logic) a digital artist who created a GIF for the collaboration, wants media, art, and other cultural realms to continue creating spaces where women of colour can feel both represented and empowered.
“Since embarking on my creative journey to self-discovery, I've become aware of how important it is to see yourself represented and how this depiction enables others to believe that they can be and do that too,” says Chewe. “My hope is that this project will not only inspire others to dream big but [also] show them that they, too, matter enough to be represented through art.”