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Illustrating Diversity

Javie Huxley is a British-Chilean illustrator and has just completed an Masters in Children's Literature & Children's Illustration. A lot of her work focuses on diversity and inclusion and Javie's recent project has drawn inspiration from her local area of Tottenham. Javie has also come to love the Latin Village (based at Seven sisters), which has help her find a sense of identity and, like many, has concerns about it's future. Rachel Ho caught up with her to find out more.

Photo Supplied: Javie Huxley, Ilustrator

Where did you grow up and what did your parents do? 

I was born in Chile and my family moved to England when I was about three years old. We moved to Hull initially and then settled in Felixstowe, a small seaside town in Suffolk. It was a slow-paced town, made up of a largely white community. I’ve never felt fully Chilean or British, just floating in a space between, so I found growing up there difficult.

My parents spent most of my childhood running a little tea room. It sounds quite idyllic, but they worked ridiculously hard to keep it going and make a success of it. Now they live in Ipswich, which is livelier and I’m glad they’re not working like crazy in the kitchen anymore.

Describe your relationship to Tottenham.

I came to London after graduating and it was the best decision I could’ve made. I started living in in Ealing with my boyfriend, but I felt really at odds with the place. It was pretty, but a real suburban bubble. Moving to Tottenham made me feel at home. It’s the first time in my life I am surrounded by a black and minority ethnic (BAME) community, which has done wonders for my sense of identity. I also couldn’t believe how big and prominent the Latin community is – the Pueblito Paisa (the Latin Village) being an essential hub for London’s Latin American community.

Illustration by Javie Huxley for

Tell us about your art and what inspires you.

I’ve always done illustration as a hobby but moving to London gave me the confidence to start to pursue it seriously. To begin with, I was inspired by comics and artists such as Daniel Clowes. However, after leaving home I realised that I needed to create art that resonated with my personal experience as a brown woman. I love the act of creating, but this realisation meant I was eager to create with a purpose. I admire work from illustrators such as Ashley Lukashevsky, Manjit Thapp and Phoebe Wahl. Many female illustrators are proving illustration can go hand in hand with social justice.

As conflicted as I feel about social media, Instagram has been a surprisingly helpful source of inspiration. I soon came to realise that art focusing on a BAME experience is often seen as ‘alternative’ or ‘niche’ and had to look outside of institutions. The online world has been a remedy for that. I became an illustrator for earlier in the year and they are always doing incredible things for women in the BAME community. It has been great illustrating for issues and topics I’m passionate about, plus feeling accepted into a community of like-minded people.

I recently completed a MA in Children’s Literature: Children’s Illustration at Goldsmiths. I often felt overwhelmed by the lack of diversity and inclusion in children’s literature, which is changing so very slowly. I made the central theme of my projects and children’s picture book about diversity and identity. My favourite project was called ‘Ambiguous’. It’s a series of illustrations about growing up as an ethnic minority and how I came to perceive myself in these formative years. For example, I’ve always been quite chunky and hairy, so I never physically fit into western beauty ideals. The project was surprisingly therapeutic, and I hope it can one day reach out to teens feeling isolated.

I had to take a short break from illustration after the stress of balancing my MA and a job. Now I’m focusing on making an online shop, because illustrators have got to eat! And I’m seriously excited to get back to projects like ‘Ambiguous’ and to dedicate more time to issues I feel strongly about.

"Moving to England" Illustration by Javie Huxley from her Ambiguous project.

Your recent project has been inspired by Tottenham. Let us know more about that!

Yes, I did a project on Thelma’s florist on Philip Lane. As soon as you get to know the owner, Thelma herself, it becomes clear that this building is a cornerstone of the community. Thelma’s goes beyond simply being a florist and all the locals know her for her lovely warmth. She welcomed me into her shop with a bowl of stew and told me stories spanning across the fifty years her family have owned the building. It’s a building that continues to stand strong amidst the threat of gentrification that's swallowing up many of London’s communities. Thelma’s florist embodies how fundamental family-run, independent businesses are to London.

Illustration by Javie Huxley from her Tottenham inspired project.

As a woman, how do you think Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change?

It’s clearly becoming more gentrified and it’s terrifying when you look at what is happening to the Latin Village. They’re facing a long and painful battle against Grainger PLC who want to redevelop the area, which would mean knocking down the Latin Village to pave way for chains and luxury flats. In this circumstance, the word redevelopment would more accurately be replaced with social cleansing. The Latin Village community have done an amazing job fighting for their rights so far – especially individuals such as Mirca Morera and Victoria Alvarez – but they deserve all the support they can get.

I feel residents of Tottenham need to become more engaged with local issues, particularly if they can help or contribute in some way. Also, there needs to be a greater emphasis on affordable housing and the importance of BAME communities in Tottenham.

Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?

I love going swimming at Tottenham Green, particularly when it’s quiet at lunchtime. I’m also a big fan of Lemon Cafe, San Marco, Sushi Heads and Sage Bistro. My favourite memory of Tottenham so far is wondering into the Latin Village when Columbia were playing during the World Cup. The atmosphere was contagious, with drinks flying and people cheering at the top of their lungs every time a goal was scored. It was heart-warming to see so many people celebrating together and generally having a great time. 

Illustration by Javie Huxley

Anything you would like to add?

Please support Latin Village’s campaign:

Check out Javie's Tottenham inspired illustrations and other work on her website.

#illustration #childrensillustration #diverisy #latinvillage


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