21 Portraits By Natalia Ivanova That Show How Diverse And Beautiful Humans Are
Published in Jul 2021 / Updated in Sep 2021
Beauty has no color or race. We are hearing this statement now more than ever.
However, some people still need someone to remind them of this healthy concept of acceptance. This is exactly what The Ethnic Origins of Beauty aims to do!
It is a project that faces racism with beauty — by showing stunning ethnically diverse portraits of women from around the globe.
Natalia Ivanova, a Russian photographer, producer, and documentary filmmaker residing in Paris, founded this non-profit art and documentary project in 2012, and so far, it has been going strong.
She uses the universal language of beauty to show that we live in a beautiful and diverse world. Ivanova’s project spread the healthy concept of harmony and tolerance among the different ethnicities by giving all of them equal respect and attention.
On her website, she wrote:
“The objective of this project is to show the real scale of ethnocultural diversity in a full, systematic and creative way; to illustrate each and every distinctive ethnicity.”
The project aims to present each distinct ethnic group in the beautiful faces of young women who represent their own ethnicity and culture.
The project’s team has captured over 250 picture and video portraits representing over 110 ethnic groups from across the world, and luckily for you, today we’re sharing a stunning selection of them!
Since February 2021, the portraits of The Ethnic Origins of Beauty have been a part of a permanent exhibition in a section made for the human genome and ethnic diversity at India’s National Museum of Science and technology.
Tunisian people (Arabic: تونسيون Tūnisiyyūn, Tunisian Arabic: توانسة Twensa), is a Maghreb-based ethnic group and native to Northern Africa.
Tunisians don’t only speak Tunisian (Derja) as their mother tongue, but they also speak fluent Arabic and/or French. They all share a common Tunisian identity and culture.
Modern migration has produced a Tunisian diaspora, especially in Western European countries like France, Germany, and Italy.
The identity of Tunisian people today is the result of a centuries-long historical trajectory. Their identity combines the Amazigh and Punic substra and the Arab, Turkish, Roman, Andalusian, and French linguistic and cultural features.
Tunisian people genetically descended from Berber tribes, combining some Middle eastern and Phoenician/Punic input. In short, less than 20% of their genetics come from Arabia, the Levant, Europe, or sub-Saharan Africa.
Tunisia’s population is almost entirely Sunni Muslim. The population is estimated to be more than 11 million people.
Icelanders (Icelandic: Íslendingar) is a North Germanic nation originating in Iceland, who speak Icelandic (a Germanic language) as their primary language.
Icelanders established Iceland in the year 930 A.D. when its Parliament, or “Althingi,” met for the first time. Iceland was ruled by Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish rulers until the Kingdom of Iceland was formed on December 1, 1918, when it regained complete sovereignty and independence from the Danish monarchy.
The monarchy was abolished on June 17, 1944, and the Icelandic republic was established. The spoken language is Icelandic, while the predominant religion is Lutheranism.
Total population: 340,000.
In English, the term Finns and Finnish people (Finnish: suomalaiset, Finland-Swedish: finnar (ethnic Finns), finländare (Finnish citizens)) means “a native or inhabitant of Finland.” They also refer to the ethnic group that is associated with Finland or Fennoscandia throughout history.
In terms of linguistics, Finnish is a member of the Uralic language family and is most closely linked to other Finnic languages such as Karelian and Estonian, whereas Swedish, spoken by Finns who speak Swedish, is not related to the Finnish language and belongs to the family of Indo-European languages.
Loanwords from Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, and Sami languages can be found in Finnish.
Total population: 5.5 million.
The Dinka people (Dinka: Jiɛ̈ɛ̈ŋ) are a Nilotic ethnic group of herders-farmers originating in South Sudan and have a large diaspora population. They particularly live along the Nile river, from Mangala to Renk, in Bahr el Ghazal, and Abyei Area of the Ngok Dinka in South Sudan, and Upper Nile.
Dinka are among Africa’s and the world’s tallest people, with an average height of 185-190 cm in men and 175-180 cm in women. The Dinka people are divided into several separate yet interconnected clans, with no centralized political authority.
Their language, known as Dinka or “Thujä” (Tho Munyjä), is a Nilotic language that belongs to the Eastern Sudanic language family. In the Dinka language, the name means “people.” It is written with a few additions to the Latin alphabet.
The ’herders’ lifestyle of the Dinkas can be seen through their religious beliefs and practices. Most of them worship Nhialic, a God who speaks through spirits that temporarily possesses people to communicate with them.
Sunni Muslims and Christians, mainly Catholics, make up a part of the Dinka population.
Total population: about 4.6 million.
The Ossetians (Ossetian: ирæттæ, irættæ) are an Iranian ethnic group native to the Ossetia area of the Caucasus Mountains.
Their spoken language is Ossetic, an Iranic language of the Eastern branch of Indo-European languages. Additionally, Ossetians can speak fluent Russian as a second language.
The majority of Ossetians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, with a small number of Muslims. The Ossetians are primarily found in Ossetia, which (for political reasons) has been divided between Russia’s North Ossetia–Alania and Georgia’s South Ossetia, which has been independent of Georgia since 2008.
Total population: 720,000.
Moldovans are from South-Eastern Europe and make the majority of Moldova’s population. They make up the bulk of the country’s population (2.7 million people—76.1%) and a significant percentage of Transnistria’s population.
They also dwell in countries like Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Romania, and others. Moldovan is a Romance language spoken by Moldovans.
The literary language of modern Moldavia is identical to Romanian; however, there are differences in terms of the local dialect in some of the vocabulary and pronunciation of the Moldovan language.
Both Russian and Ukrainian (to a lesser extent) are widely spoken among Moldovans, and most Moldovans are Orthodox.
Total population: 4 million.
Kabyles (Kabyle: Iqvayliyen) are a Berber (Amazigh) ethnic group which originated in Kabylie (or Kabylia) in northern Algeria, around 100 miles east of Algiers. They make up Algeria’s biggest Berber-speaking population and Africa’s second-largest.
Emigration, affected by factors like the French conquest of Algeria, deportation, and more recently, the industrial decline and lack of employment, caused Kabyles to be scattered worldwide.
Kabyle people settled in large numbers in France and Canada. They mainly speak the Kabyle language and have been at the forefront of the fight for the official recognition of Berber languages in Algeria since the Berber Spring of 1980.
Total number: about 6.5 million.
Yazidi people are an endogamous, Kurmanji-speaking ethnic group native to Upper Mesopotamia. Today, the bulk of Yazidis in the Middle East live in the disputed regions of Northern Iraq, especially in the governorates of Nineveh and Dohuk.
Yazidis dwell largely in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, but they also largely reside in Armenia and Georgia.
The Yazidis were victims of genocide at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in August 2014, as part of the group’s campaign to diminish non-Islamic influences. Both scholars and Yazidis disagree on whether Yazidis are a religious sub-group of Kurds or a separate ethnic group. It can be thought that the Yazidi faith has its origins in the ancient Mesopotamian religions.
Yazidism is considered a monotheistic faith that believes in only one God, who created the universe and gave it to a Heptad of seven Holy Beings, commonly referred to as Angels or heft sirr (the Seven Mysteries). Tawûsê Melek (Melek Taus), the Peacock Angel, is the most prominent of them.
Yazidis are only allowed to marry other Yazidis – if someone marries a non-Yazidis, they are expelled from their family and are given no right to call themselves Yazidi.
Total population: about 1 million.
Lithuanian people (Lithuanian: Lietuva, singular Lietuvos/lietuvė) are a Baltic ethnic group originating in Lithuania, with around 2,683,037 people. A million or more Lithuanians live in the diaspora, primarily in the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Russia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
The Lithuanians’ native tongue is Lithuanian, one of only two Baltic languages still spoken today.
According to the 2001 census, 83.45% of the population of Lithuania identified as Lithuanians, 6.74% as Poles, 6.31% as Russians, 1.23% as Belarusians, and 2.27% as members of other groups.
The majority of Lithuanians are Roman Catholics, although the Lietuvininkai (Prussian Lithuanians) who lived in the northern area of East Prussia were primarily Evangelical Lutherans.
Total population: about 4 million.
The Jola (Diola in French transcription) are an ethnic group who live in small villages in Senegal (mostly in the Casamance area), Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. Many of them are found along the Atlantic coast between the southern banks of the Gambia River, Senegal’s Casamance region, and the northern area of Guinea-Bissau.
The people of Jola are believed to have come before the Fula and Mande peoples in the riverine coast of Senegambia and have possibly migrated before the 13th century into Casamance.
They have an ancient link with the Jola and Serer people, some of the Senegambia Region’s earliest historical inhabitants. The Jola language is different from the Dioula (Dyoula) Mande language spoken in Upper Niger, Gambia, and the Kong highlands of Burkina Faso.
Total population: 900,000.
Bengalis (Bengali: বাঙালি Bangali, Bengali: বাঙ্গালি জাতি Bangali jati) are the main ethnic group native to the Bengal region, which is officially divided between Bangladesh and India.
The Bengali language (বাংলা Bangla) is linked to the Bengali people as a main language. They are mostly located in Bangladesh, India’s West Bengal, and the Tripura States.
Bengali communities are also present across North-East India, New Delhi, and the Indian states of Assam, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa. In Pakistan, too, there is a sizable number of Bengalis.
Beyond South Asia, there are many Bengali populations; the United Kingdom and the United States have some of the most well-established Bengali communities. Bengalis have settled in the United Kingdom, with about 200,000 residing in the eastern boroughs of London, while in the United States, more than 200,000 Bengalis are living across the country, primarily in New York.
Bengalis are also scattered across Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and many other states. Total population: about 250 million.
Fula people, also known as Fulani or Fulbe, are an ethnic group located primarily in West Africa, Central Africa, and Sudanese North Africa.
They are present in a large number of African countries, including Mauritania, Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, The Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Benin, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Chad, Togo, Liberia, the Central African Republic, and in the east, it reaches as far as Egypt and Sudan.
Although they are a majority in Guinea (38%), Fula people are a minority in every state they live in.
Total population: about 35 million.
The Kyrgyz, also known as Kyrghyz or Kirghiz, are a Turkic people who live mostly in the Kyrgyz Republic. Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and China are also all home to the Kyrgyz people.
They are one of China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic groups. The majority of Kyrgyz people are Muslims following the Hanafi Sunni school.
Total population: 6.5 million.
The Reunionese are the inhabitants of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion (the French overseas department). They have a total population of 250 thousand individuals on the island.
Reunion has mostly a mixed population, and their language is creolized French.
As it relates to faith, the Réunionese are mostly Catholics. The French colonization of the previously uninhabited island (the second half of the XVIII century) helped form the population and the immigration of plantation workers from East Africa and Madagascar, then from West Africa’s Malabar coast India.
Following the abolition in the French colonies (1848), indentured workers from all over the world, including Africa, China, India, Yemen, Indonesia (the island of Java), and others, were brought to the island.
Ukrainian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is Europe’s seventh-largest country in terms of population.
Ukrainians live in Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and other former Soviet Union states. There is also a diaspora in the US, Canada, and other states.
The term “Ukrainians” also refers to the citizens of Ukraine in a broader sense.
The Ukrainian language belongs to the Indo-European family’s Slavic group. The majority of Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians, and some Catholics can be found in Western Ukraine. After the Russians and Poles, the Ukrainians are the third largest Slavic people in the population.
Polissian ethnographic groups (Polishchuk) and a handful of Western ethnographic groups are also included among Ukrainians (Boyko, Hutsul, Lemkos).
Total population: 46 million.
Chechens (English pronunciation: /tʃʼɛtʃɛn/, Chechen: Hохчий Noxçiy) are a native Northeast Caucasian ethnic group of the Nakh peoples who originated in the North Caucasus area of Eastern Europe.
The Chechen Republic, a province of the Russian Federation, is home to the majority of Chechens today. Chechen culture has historically been egalitarian, with several small independent clans known as teips.
Chechen is their primary language, a member of the Nakh language family (Northeast Caucasian languages). Chechnya is mostly a Muslim nation, and its people are predominantly Sunni Muslims who follow the Shafi’i Madhhab. The republic converted to Islam between the 16th and 19th centuries.
Total population: 1.3 million.
The Altaians, or Altai, are Turkic people who live in the Altai Republic and Altai Krai in Siberia ( the federal subjects of Russia). Altai is the ancestral homeland of the world’s modern Turkic peoples. In the year 552, the ancient Turks established their own state, the Khanate.
It became the Turks’ primordial language, which expanded across the Khanate, owing to it to the writing associated with the state of Turks, now known as “Orkhon-Yenisei runic writing.”
All of this contributed to forming an “Altaic family” of languages, including Turkic, Mongolian, Koranic, Tungus-Manchu, and Japanese-language branches. Shamanism is the Altaians’ traditional religion. However, they were forced to become Christians in 1917.
Total number: about 80,000.
Armenian people (Armenian: հայեր, hayer [hɑˈjɛɾ]) are an ethnic group who originated in the Armenian Highlands. Armenians from majorities in two countries: the Republic of Armenia and the disputed de facto independent the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, both of which have a fairly homogeneous population.
A total of 5-7 million individuals of full or partial Armenian ancestry reside outside of Armenia due to a long-lasting diaspora. The Armenian Genocide resulted in a huge number of survivors fleeing to various places across the world. Russia, France, the United States, Iran, Georgia, Syria, and Lebanon have the greatest Armenian populations today.
The Armenian Apostolic Church, a non-Chalcedonian church and the world’s oldest national church, is followed by the vast majority of Armenians.
Due to the efforts of two of Jesus’ apostles, St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, Christianity began to spread in Armenia. In the early 4th century, The Kingdom of Armenia became the first nation to accept Christianity as its official religion.
Total population: 8 million.
Germans (German: Deutsche) are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. They have a shared German origin, history, culture, and a shared German language.The Germans are descendants of Germanic tribes like the Alamanni, Bavaria, Saxons, Franks, Lombards, Goths, Nemeth, Marcomanni, Schwab, and others who emerged as an ethnicity.
Following the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years’ War, around 300 German states arose during the Empire’s collapse. In the 19th century, these states became modern Germany. More than 80 million people identify themselves as Germans out of the world’s 100 million native German speakers.
A total of 80 million individuals of German descent live in the United States, Canada, Brazil (mostly in the south), Argentina, South Africa, the post-Soviet states (mostly in Russia and Kazakhstan), and France, with each country accounting for at least 1 million. Thus, the total number of Germans is somewhere between 100 and 150 million, depending on the criteria applied.
People from German-speaking nations like Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and other historically-tied nations like Luxembourg have established their own national identity (not ethnic identity). They have not referred to themselves as “Germans” in a modern context since WWII.
German is the Germans’ native language, a West Germanic language related to and classed alongside English and Dutch, with many similarities to North Germanic and Scandinavian languages.
German is one of the world’s main languages, with over 100 million native speakers. In fact, it is the most commonly spoken first language in the European Union.
During the second part of the twentieth century, German was replaced as the main language of Nobel Laureates in science. It was the Holy Roman Empire’s lingua franca.
Total population: about 140 million.
Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania are home to the Wolof ethnic group. Wolofs make up an ethnic majority in Senegal, accounting for 43.3% of the population.
Wolof people make up roughly 16% of the Gambia’s population. Although they are a minority in this country, where the Mandinka form 42% of the population, Wolof’s language and culture greatly influence due to their predominance in Banjul, the Gambian capital, where Wolof makes up the majority of the population.
Wolof people constitute 8% of the population of Mauritania. They are mostly found along the country’s southern coast.
Total number: 6 million.
The Georgians (Georgian: ქართველები, kartvelebi) are an ethnic group native to Georgia (a state in the Caucasus area of Eurasia), where they make up the majority of the population.
There are large Georgian populations in Russia, The United States, South America, and The European Union. Georgians are predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christians, with the majority adhering to the national autocephalous Georgian Orthodox Church, which dates back to the 4th century. In Tbilisi and Adjara, Georgian Catholic and Muslim communities can also be found.
Total population: 6 million.
That was our list of 21 ethnicities included in Natalia Ivanova’s The Ethnic Origins of Beauty. What ethnicity would you have liked to see on this list? Let us know!