You Can Now Download The New African Emojis, Created By This 21-Year-Old
By Kelsey Marie
O’Plerou Grebet is a 21-year-old from the Ivory Coast who saw a huge problem with emojis and did something about it. Grebet noticed there were no emojis that Africans could specifically relate to, leading him to create Zouzoukwa African emojis.
After having a conversation with his friend on WhatsApp, Grebet recalls to Le Monde in 2018.
“Seeing all the smileys embedded in the application, I thought that was missing some to describe our Ivorian realities, to make our jokes.”
Luckily, his parents are very supportive of his creative ventures and wanted him to “follow his passion.” He’s since created 350 downloadable emojis with cultural references to West Africa.
He spoke to BBC saying, “Basically, my idea was to create emojis so Africans can have emojis they can relate to.”
He shared the first emoji on Instagram of a plate of cassava and plantain and it was met with great reception and over 1,000 likes.
When talking about his inspiration for the different emojis he says, “Everything I see around me, on a daily basis, inspires me. I draw for a very long time, alone in my room, first on paper and then on the Photoshop software.”
Grebet has been quite busy, winning the Young Talent Award in March at the Africa Digital Communication Days, and having his emojis featured on social media during the World Cup in collaboration with the French channel Canal+ this past summer.
Zouzoukwa may only be available on Android devices right now, but Grebet wants to “create an application that allows Zouzoukwa to be used by anyone on a phone. And why not, one day, whether they are directly integrated with phones or in applications such as WhatsApp, Telegram or Facebook Messenger. There, finally, the loop would be buckled.”
He shared his five favorite emojis with BBC:
The Bissau (Hibiscus Juice Bag)
A game he played when he was younger in school.
‘You Saw That?’
A phrase commonly said in the Ivory Coast.
Senegal’s ‘Car Rapide’
Grebet simply loves the design of the car rapide.
The Afro Brush
The described shy Grebet says “The next step for me, after Zouzoukwa, is to learn about 3D and virtual reality, in order to create filters and find a new way to pay tribute to the African culture.”
Kelsey-Marie is an NYC girl who currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @kelseydashmarie