The emoji designers of West Africa

Sierra Lloyd, Editor

In the Ivory Coast of West Africa, globalization’s influence is everywhere. Malls, skyscrapers, and fast-food restaurants fill the local cities, and the people living in them carry Iphones just like anywhere else affected by globalization. That being said, western African culture is also prominent in the country, with clothing, expressions, and traditions not seen in Europe or North America. 

It being 2020, people all over the planet are increasingly viewing their lives through the guise of technology. Despite this, the technology people are using, such as Iphones, video games, and social media, usually centers American culture as the assumed experience of its users. 

O’Plerou Grebet, a 22-year-old graphic design student, is doing something to make west Afrian culture more visible on our mobile devices. Digital emojis and stickers he creates depict symbols and scenes from everyday life in his home on the Ivory Coast and in its neighboring countries. In 2018, he released a free pack of over 360 stickers in a mobile app called “Zouzoukwa,” which means “image” in the local language, Bété. The pack now has over 120,000 downloads. 

With images like the djembe drum (a skin covered goblet drum played with one’s hands) and people clad in different prints and colorful fabrics, Grebet is not only making technology more inclusive, he is also teaching people around the world about the people of West Africa. Next, Grebet hopes to get some of his designs into the official emoji set included on smartphones everywhere.