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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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Photo: WH Moustapha

Mdou Moctar Announces Debut Album 'Afrique Victime'

The album is a collaboration between Mdou, his band members and his rhythm guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane.

Matador Records has announced that the eagerly anticipated album Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar will be released on May 21.

Afrique Victime is an unprecedented collaboration between Mdou, his band members, and Ahmoudou Madassane, who's been his rhythm guitarist since 2008. The album will present an effortless fusion of Saharan and rock music; melding guitar pyrotechnics, full-blast noise, and field recordings with poetic meditations.

You might have come across Mdou on Off White's "Imaginary TV" channel, who designer Virgil Abloh called, "one of my favorite musicians Rn."

Mdou's desert village Agadez, in rural Niger, is his source of inspiration. He attributes his artistic style to traditional Tuareg melodies and YouTube videos of Eddie Van Halen's six string techniques. Mdou has also worked on film projects. He wrote, produced, and starred in the first Tuareg language film: a remake of Purple Rain called Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai– which translates to "Rain The Color Of Blue With A Little Red In It." This earned him approval from his community and popularity across West Africa. This soon led to world tours and albums on the independent US label Sahel Sounds, including 2019's landmark Ilana: The Creator, which earned Mdou an international audience.

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