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TopNaija Stories: O’Plerou Denis Grebet, Digital Artist





O’Plerou Denis Grebet, 22, is an Ivorian digital artist and art student who has designed over 350 free emojis that portrays the West African culture.

In September 2017, he learned to make emojis by consuming YouTube tutorials. The first emoji he designed was of Foutou, a staple Ivorian meal made from ground cassava flour and mashed plantains. In 2018, he resolved to create and post a new Africa related emoji every day till the end of the year on Instagram.

Within the first week of starting this project, he gained 2,000 new followers. In December 2018, he incorporated all 365 emojis from his project into an app called Zouzoukwa, which is a word in the Bete language spoken in Ivory Coast, meaning image. The Zouzoukwa app was downloaded 10,000 times in the first three days and named best app of 2019 at the African Talents Awards. Prior to this interview with TopNaija, O’Plerou has since been featured on CNN and The New York Times.


Current role: Graphic Designer, Digital Artist, Illustrator

Location: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Current computer: HP Envy M7 and Macbook Air 2015

Current mobile device: iPhone XR

Want to be remembered for: My contribution to arts & culture


Tell us how you started out and how you got to where you are today?

It started at the end of high school, when I was looking for what to study after my degree. I wanted to pursue creative career because I loved drawing.

After my degree, I went to the Abidjan Fine Arts School for one year, and then I went to the Institute of Science and Communication to study graphic design. I discovered digital art here, and started my African emojis project during the second year.

View this post on Instagram

#zzkPaquinou N°7 : "Paquinou yô fê"

A post shared by O'Plérou (@creativorian) on


What time do wake up, and what time do you like to be at your desk?

I generally wake up at 7am, and start working 1 hour later.


A brief rundown of your daily routine?

Actually I don’t have a correctly structured routine, but my daily activities include answering emails, working on my projects and planning what I want to do next. It depends on what I’m working on.


How do you keep track of what you have to do, on a daily?

I use the Reminders and Notes apps on my phone, I write what I have to do on lists and I check them when I’m done with it.


Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in business?

I just started my business, so I haven’t lived any real tough situations yet.


What is the best business or career advice you’ve ever received?

“Know your value and set your prices according to it”.


What conventional life or business advice do you disagree with?

I don’t know if it’s really conventional, but these last three years I often saw online the phrase “fake it till you make it”, about how faking confidence for example could help us be more confident. I think people can sense when other people are not genuine, and I prefer to accept my flaws and be simply honest, and doing that without faking anything we gain confidence.

O'Plerou Grebet interview with

O’Plerou Grebet speaks with

If you had to start all over again, what would you do differently?

Nothing, every event happened in the right order and I don’t currently have any real regret.


Tell us about your current role and key traits required to succeed on this role.

I am using art and technology to share culture, and the key traits required are concentration, technical skills and creativity.


Who has had the greatest impact on your career, and why?

My parents and my family, because they allowed me to follow my passion and bought me the tools that helped me start my activities.


What business achievement are you most proud of?

My first contract. Maybe the amount were not huge, but the simple fact of earning money because of my work showed me that this is possible and motivated me to continue.


Tell us about your greatest weakness as an individual.

My lack of social skills. I’m not talkative at all and I almost never go out, so I could be labeled as rude but it’s just that most of the time I don’t know what to say. I guess I missed some opportunities because of that.

O'Plerou Grebet

Name two untapped lucrative business opportunities in the world, right now.

I don’t know. :/


Aside God, what do you consider your greatest success secret?

I don’t consider myself as a success yet, even if I am really grateful for what happened to me because of my project. I could say that my greatest asset is my self-knowledge, I have a clear view of my character, my strengths and weaknesses and I work using them. For example, I know that I am not outgoing and talkative so I have to create work that speaks for me. I also now that I am an introvert and I am not wired for.


What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

The last book I read was Mastery by Robert Greene, I am watching The OA and the artist I listen the most these times is Bon Iver.


What tools, gadgets, or apps can’t you do without?

The Notes app and my computer.


What’s your favourite social media platform, handle, and why?

My favourite social media platform is Instagram because it’s based on visual content, and my favourite handle is @OPlerou, my first name.

O'Plerou Grebet sample emoji


How do you unwind?

I go see my friends, I play video games, like the Sims, Tetris and Call of Duty Mobile. I also watch series on Netflix.


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