Rebecca Hui
Author: Roots Studio
2023

Rebecca Hui

Entrepreneur/Artist/Cartographer

grassroots organizing and high design

meet rebecca

Rebecca Hui is an entrepreneur, artist, and cartographer passionate about bridging cultures globally. She built Roots Studio, a collective of rural creatives and technologists reimagining cultural preservation through digital intellectual property licensing. With a decade of co-collaborations bridging indigenous communities with global brands, their partnerships have increased portfolio artists’ average annual incomes by 23%. Roots Studio has been described as the “Antidote to Cultural Appropriation.” Rebecca utilizes data-driven maps and urban planning to support communities facing climate change and biodiversity loss. She and her work are widely recognized, and she recently released her first children’s book, “Old Enough to Make a Difference”.

grassroots organizing and high design
Nominated by: Joe Grabowski FI'18
Class of 2023 Location New York, New York, USA
Author: Taylor Weidman

A boy in a village in Assam once asked me for my pen. He offered his handmade, naturally dyed seed bracelet. I was baffled by what felt like an unfair exchange, yet he insisted, “the pen is cool, because it has Google on it.” The world of Google is constantly exploring what sustainability actually means, while many of the answers are in this boy’s village.

I wrestled with my role as an explorer who would write a paper, take photos, and then go home. As explorers, we can engage in change through design. Often when people think “rural,” they think poverty, lack of infrastructure and poor education, but what I saw were highly creative individuals. With unstable farming income, discrimination, and loss of land, villagers leave their communities to become migrant laborers in cities, dismantling their traditional practices and obscuring their own voices. Simultaneously, the urban world craves sustainability, community, and provenance, values that indigenous communities have held for generations. Roots Studio connects those rich in cultural traditions to a multibillion-dollar market that has misappropriated ethnic designs for years, on a foundation of respect, reciprocity, and remuneration. We bypass onerous supply chains and enable steady income for artists wherever they reside, averting the need for migration. From digitizing matrilineal tattoos to paintings on traditional houses, royalties wired back to communities average 5–20x the original selling price. We are grassroots organizing and we’re high design.

“We need innovative reforestation strategies integrating ecological processes and human needs into conservation actions.”

- Rebecca Hui
Author: Roots Studio

I love transcending siloed worlds. It’s important to not judge because of a preconception, whether a rural artist in Madhya Pradesh or a Louis Vuitton designer in Paris. Today, people are glued to semantics & ideological assumptions instead of curiosity. Bridging cultures is complex in a polarized world. My favorite part about Roots Studio is showing universal humanity through compassion and curiosity, being genuinely curious about people from other walks of life, spending time getting to know them, and giving them positions of power they deserve.

there are 49 other visionary explorers

read about the class of 2023