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Apple's Black Emojis Are Coming (But They're Not The First)

Apple's diversified emoticons are coming, but Mauritius-based app company Oju Africa was first to introduce black emojis.


Screenshot of Oju Emoticon App v1.0 via Oju Africa

Apple's black emojis are on their way. As 9to5mac reports, this morning Apple released a new beta version of iOS 8.3 for testers that includes a more racially diverse character set, which allows users to pick from a palette of skin tones on several different emojis. Users will soon have the ability to click and hold on emoji characters (the ones intended to be people) and select from an option of six skin tones-- which we presume are along the Fitzpatrick Classification Scale. According to The Next Web, there's still no release date for the new emoji features, but Apple is reportedly planning a public beta program to kick off in mid-March. Regardless of when they do launch, though, Apple still won't be the first company to introduce black emojis.

Last April, Mauritius-based app company Oju Africa launched a range of 65 "Afro Emoticons." At the time of their release, Oju (Yoruba for "face") touted their afrocentric emojis as the first ethnically diverse emoticons. "It's very important for us, as a small African company, to make it known to the world that we were the first to do it," the company's Ugandan-born chief executive Alpesh Patel told CNN.

Patel, whose company began developing the icons in late 2012, says they moved up the release date for their Emoticons in response to a public demand for Apple to diversify their emojis — a call that began with a tweet from Miley Cyrus ("RT if you think there needs to be an #emojiethnicityupdate," Cyrus wrote on December 18, 2012). On March 25, 2014, Apple's Katie Cotton (VP of worldwide corporate communications) told MTV the company is working to diversify their emoji character set. As discussions surrounding an "#EmojiEthnicityUpdate" began to spread online, Oju announced they'd already been working to develop black emojis. According to Patel in an interview with CNN, "The reason we launched it [the Afro Emoticons ahead of schedule] is because of this petition from Miley Cyrus and MTV — petition to Apple CEO complaining about the lack of racially diverse emoticons and Apple said 'yes, we're going to look into it.' But within a couple of hours of seeing that, we put our press release out and already claimed ownership — that we have actually developed this already." The first version of the Oju emoticon app has been available for download via Google Play since April (almost a year ahead of Apple's forthcoming black emojis).

Leaked photo of Apple's new emoji skin tone feature via The Next Web

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Burna Boy Is Apple Music's New 'Up Next' Artist

The 'African Giant' joins Apple Music's Up Next program.

Burna Boy is the latest artist to get a spot in Apple Music's Up Next program, OkayAfrica is excited to announce today.

The Nigerian afro-fusion star has been coming off a huge year that saw him perform at Coachella and win the BET Award for Best International Act. He's also readying the release of his upcoming album, African Giant, from which we've had the infectious single "Anybody" on repeat.

Burna Boy's inclusion in the program comes with a new Beats 1 interview with Julie Adenuga, which is live today, and an upcoming short documentary on the Nigerian artist due July 16.

"I'm super excited to be part of the Apple Music Up Next campaign," says Burna Boy. "Apple continuously comes up with new initiatives to support artists globally and push the African culture. It's an honor to be a part of this and with my African Giant album coming out soon, the timing is perfect."

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Watch: Bozoma Saint John on Becoming the New Face of Uber

Bozoma Saint John talks about how she'll make her mark at Uber and what it means to be a Ghanaian woman at the highest levels of tech and business.

In an interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning, this morning, Uber’s first-ever chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John talks about the challenges of her new job, growing up Ghanaian in Colorado and why representation matters in business.

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Courtesy of Universal Music Group.

In Conversation with Daniel Kaluuya and Melina Matsoukas: 'This isn't a Black Bonnie and Clyde film—our stories are singular, they're ours.'

'Queen and Slim' lands in South Africa.

Melina Matsoukas and Daniel Kaluuya are everything their surroundings at the opulent Saxon Hotel are not—down-to-earth and even comedic at times. Despite the harsh lights and cameras constantly in their faces, they joke around and make the space inviting. They're also eager to know and pronounce the names of everyone they meet correctly. "It's Rufaro with an 'R'? Is that how you say it?" Kaluuya asks me as he shakes my hand.

Matsoukas, a two-time Grammy award winning director and Kaluuya, an A-list actor who's starred in massive titles including Black Panther and Get Out, have every reason to be boastful about their achievements and yet instead, they're relatable.

The duo is in South Africa to promote their recent film Queen Slim which is hitting theaters today and follows the eventful lives of a Black couple on the run after killing a police officer. It's a film steeped in complexity and layered themes to do with racism, police brutality and of course Black love.

We caught up with both of them to talk about just what it took from each of them to bring the powerful story to the big screen.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Installation view of Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara © The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2020, photography by Anna-Marie Kellen.

The Met's New Exhibition Celebrates the Rich Artistic History of the Sahel Region

'Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara' is an enxtensive look into the artistic past of the West African region.

West Africa's Sahel region has a long and rich history of artistic expression. In fact, pieces from the area, which spans present-day Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, date all the way back to the first millennium. Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara, a new exhibition showing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, dives into this history to share an expansive introduction to those who might be unfamiliar with the Sahel's artistic traditions.

"The Western Sahel has always been a part of the history of African art that has been especially rich, and one of the things that I wanted to do with this exhibition, that hasn't done before, is show one of the works of visual art...and present them within the framework of the great states that historians have written about that developed in this region," curator Alisa LaGamma tells Okayafrica. She worked with an extensive team of researchers and curators from across the globe, including Yaëlle Biro, to bring the collection of over 200 pieces to one of New York City's most prestigious art institutions.

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