• A young Ivorian is the brain behind the emoticons with West African cultural preference.
  • His invention is known as ‘Zouzoukwa African emojis’.
  • it has over 350 downloadable emojis.

O’Plerou Grebet is a 21-year-old Ivorian student who has created emoticons with West African cultural preference.

His invention which is known as ‘Zouzoukwa African emojis’ has more than 350 downloadable emojis. “Zouzoukwa”, means “image” in the Bété language.

Grebet said when he started, he intended to create emoticons inspired by the Ivorian culture and society of today every day for one year on social media platforms.

He said that the Zouzoukwa idea came to him all of a sudden when he was having a conversation with a friend on WhatsApp. “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!” he explained.

He numbered each emoticon. Afterward, each was captioned and sometimes explained. The emojis are currently available on android devices.

The emojis he has created comprise images like African food dishes like garba (a popular dish made from cassava meal), worô-wôro (communal taxis of Abidjan), national monuments such as the Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix basilica of Yamoussoukro, the traditional costumes of different communities or typical expressions used by Africans.

According to Grebet when he launched his project in January 2018, he knew that “it would please, but not so much.” He added that the first drawings he did in 2008 caught the attention of internet users attracting more than 1,000 likes on Instagram

Some emoticon by O’Plérou Grebet
Some emoticon by O’Plérou Grebet

He subsequently won the Young Talent Award at Africa Digital Communication Days (Adicom Days) at the meeting place for digital actors in French-speaking Africa.

He further collaborated with the French Channel Canal+, which used some of his “made in Ivo” emoticons on social networks during the football World Cup in June and July. 

He told BBC Africa that “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.”

“I won two awards for my creations. 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 added.

Grebet said his biggest dream is to “Create an application through which zouzoukwa can 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.”