The world has witnessed rapid technological advancements which have greatly helped in how we interact with each other. But in the details of these applications, there are small things that show how black people are not fully represented. And this is what led Ivorian student O’Plerou Grebet to develop something that resonates with his own people as well. Grebet is only 21-years-old.
Grebet has developed emoticons (smileys) which reflect West African cultural ways. These emojis are available through his invention called "Zouzoukwa African emojis". Through this app one has access to over 350 downloadable African emojis. It is really the small things that go a long way in speaking a message of oneness through everyday technology.
His invention is an avenue of expressing the African way of living. Through the app, one is greeted by a plethora of African emojis and stickers, ranging from African food dishes such as garba, to architectural monuments such as the Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix basilica of Yamoussoukro, to the facial expressions of fellow Africans, and to the African traditional costumes.
The basic common feature of his invention is how it relates excellently well with Africans who have embraced his technology. "Zouzoukwa" is a word in the Bété language which means "image". To him, it's an idea that mirrors correctly the realities of the African as expressed through instant technology. He realized that all the emojis embedded in WhatsApp were not connected to the realities of Africans, and he needed something that would make their jokes even livelier.
He said, "Seeing all the smileys embedded in the application, I thought that I was missing some to describe our Ivorian realities, to make our jokes. And I thought I could create it myself!"
"Basically, my idea was to create emojis so Africans can have emojis they can relate to," he said, speaking to BBC Africa.
"My five favourite emojis are the Bissap (hibiscus juice) bag. It is the most beautiful to me. The point-point, a game I played when I was younger in school, You have: You saw that? we say this a lot in Ivory Coast, Senegal’s ‘Car Rapide’, I never took it but I love its design and the Afro brush for my hair."
His creative work has since been recognized by Africa Digital Communication Days (Adicom Days) - forum for digital actors in French-speaking Africa - when he won the Young Talent Award.
"Everything I see around me, on a daily basis, inspires me," he said. "I draw for a very long time, alone in my room, first on paper and then on the Photoshop software."
"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."
He harbours big dreams for his project. He wants the application to be usable on any phone in the world and he also wishes for integration with other platforms like Telegram and Facebook Messenger.
Header image credit - Face2faceAfrica