From the most advanced countries to those that are still developing – no matter where you are in the world you are very likely to have encountered an emoji. Due to the growth of smartphones in the world, emojis have become so popular that, on Tuesday 17 July, it’s World Emoji Day.
Creative director and photographer Toufic Beyhum has merged emojis and traditional African masks in a project entitled AMOJI MASKS. It consists of a series of portraits that show subjects wearing masks with both traditional African elements and iconic emoji features.
Beyhum was inspired by the ever-increasing connectivity of the African continent, and the inevitable clash between modern and traditional cultures. ‘Amoji’ gives insight into the experiences of global connectivity, and how smartphones have brought modernisation to all parts of the world.
Born in Lebanon and raised in London, Beyhum now resides in Namibia. He has worked across the globe in creative industries, including New York, London, Berlin and Dubai. As a collector of African masks himself, the idea of merging emojis and masks happened when he was shopping at a craft market. He immediately began researching African masks, and enlisted the help of two young Namibian artists to make them.
He chose to use the seven most popular emojis, in what took at total of six months to complete – made from both traditional and recycled material. Once the masks were complete, it was time to shoot the portraits.
Beyhum decided to photograph people doing everyday tasks rather than models on a set. He also chose to shoot on film as a form of rebellion to the modernisation he is depicting through his masks. The result is a beautiful body of work that is uniquely African with universal appeal.
To find out more about the AMOJI MASJ project and how it came to be, watch this video: