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From Big Murals to Small Sketches, This Artist’s Work Has Something to Say About Female Power

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This piece is one in a series about unapologetic women whose hair makes a statement. Follow their stories here.

Ivette Cabrera came to the United States when she was just three years old. The turmoil of the Nicaraguan Revolution caused her mother to flee the country and seek a new home with her young daughter. Now, Cabrera creates murals and other artwork in Miami that mostly focus on female strength and wisdom — and much of that inspiration originated with her own background and her evolution into womanhood.

Cabrera became interested in the Nicaraguan Sandinista movement — the party that challenged Nicaragua’s dictatorship from 1979 to 1990 — as an adult. During her research on the movement, she came across an image of a Sandinista mother with her baby that inspired a thought: Women are both warriors and creators, powerful yet delicate. That idea sparked a larger project in which Cabrera researched more women across the world. Her findings startled her: "Our history of oppression has had cataclysmic effects that have molded the identity of women today, especially for women of color," Cabrera explains.

This led her to the idea of expressing female strength through her work. Though she had studied and worked in architecture, Cabrera began to teach herself to draw portraits of women four years ago. She used charcoal to incorporate architectural elements into elaborate headdresses on her subjects. She sometimes even uses a magnifying glass to add detail around the head.

As she refined her technique, Cabrera also found ways to appreciate her own evolving hair story. After finding her first gray hair, she learned to embrace that sign of wisdom and to even work streaks of white into some of her art.

"I think hair is just as powerful as a crown, in terms of the way women perceive themselves," Cabrera explains. "Every day you wear your 'crown' and style it the way that makes you feel empowered and beautiful. That’s the great thing about having the ability to style it an different way; it all depends on your mood and how you want to present yourself that day. I've been growing my hair long for some time now so I can have one long braid when I'm older. Long hair captures an essence of my own power.” Get a glimpse into her artistic process by watching the video.

About the Director

Maya Albanese is an LA-based writer and director who crafts visual narratives that empower women and spotlight the unsung stories of underdogs worldwide. She has directed and shot films and commercials in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in Spanish, French, and English, and for clients including Nike Women, Foot Locker, Ketel One, Chevrolet, Dressbarn, Manchester United, and Capital Group. Her writing, photos, and films have been been published across NBC News, The Today Show, Telemundo, the Food Network, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Popsugar, Eater, Tastemade, Miami Herald, In Cuba Today, and, among others, and her indie films have played at festivals worldwide, including DOCNYC and the New York and LA Independent Film Festivals. Albanese holds a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking from Columbia University in New York.

Maya on Ivette:

“Ivette possesses this exceptional creative force that manifests in regal portraits of women, which give a collective voice and face to our forgotten foremothers. All their strength, pain, power, and femininity are intricately drawn into her headdresses, and it’s a magical process to witness.”

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