Halla Walla – Arab Culture through Emojis

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It took two months of intense research for Yasmin Rasool and Eriko Varkey to bring the stories of Shaikha, Lula, Waleed and Ahmed to life. They interviewed focus groups of expats and natives from the Gulf for hours, recording stories of their childhood and cultural experiences of living in the region. Then in February 2017 the duo was finally ready to introduce the family of four to the world. The result was Halla Walla, an Arab emoji and sticker app, available for download on iOS and Android.  While there have been messaging representations of Arabic culture, Rasool and Varkey are a on a growing list of creators developing Arabic digital content. “People want to represent themselves now. A lot of people are standing their ground to owning themselves…I think that’s what it’s come to,” Rasool said. Varkey and Rasool also see Halla Walla as an educational solution for learning about Arab culture. To both, the cause is personal. Whenever Rasool would travel around the world, she’d always get asked one question: “how are you Arab?” Varkey, meanwhile, has lived in the region for years. “Our kind of explanation has been to open people’s eyes a little more,” she said. “[We’d tell them] ‘you don’t understand, we are cool people, we actually have a lot to offer and have a very rich culture….do you know how different every [Arab country] is?’

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