Emojis and Me

People, Identity & Culture
Racial Pride
Emojis depicting West African culture

© O’Plérou Grebet

Grade Level:
Middle School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Speaking and Listening, Language
People, Identity & Culture
Racial Pride

Seeing a Positive Reflection of Yourself in Media

O’Plérou Grebet, a 22-year-old digital artist from the Ivory Coast, was recently in the news because he created his own emojis, reflecting life in contemporary West Africa. In an interview with CNN, he stated, "I noticed that media and most articles about Africa were talking about the bad sides of the continent only. They reduced the image of it to a land in war where people are poor and hungry. These elements are true but it's not everywhere on the continent."

Identity in Emojis

Using a YouTube instructional video, Grebet created more than 365 emojis and a free app where the emojis can be downloaded. The app was named “The Best App of 2019” by The African Talents Awards, which recognizes young Africans in creative fields. Grebet created the emojis because he understood that West African people wanted and deserved to see themselves reflected in emojis, an important part of young people’s digital lives. Emojis not only reflect feelings and moods, they convey key aspects of our identity.

"People like to see the elements of their own daily life in their phone," Grebet said. "And it's funny to have expressions that really correspond with the ones you use yourself."

About the Lesson Plan

This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn about the history of emojis, reflect on why O’Plérou Grebet created this collection of emojis and then create their own emojis to convey something about their own identity.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will understand and reflect on the history and purpose of emojis.
  • Students will learn why representing one’s culture, nation and identity is important in using emojis.
  • Students will create their own emojis to reflect aspects of their identity.

Virtual Classroom Option

Click here for the student-facing version of this activity on Sutori, a collaborative instruction and presentation tool for the classroom. Use the "share" feature below the page banner to easily invite students through email, embed onto your webpage or add to your Google classroom or other online platform.

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