For the past year, I’ve been painting emoji.
Mike Sall
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Give Mike a hand!

I started to write a response but then I thought, it would be rude not to include some emojis. To be honest I don’t use emojis but it was a great opportunity to pick up the closest paints to me and have some fun. So I drew you a clapping hand emoji, but then it got out of hand (pun intended) as these fellas turned up looking shocked…but why you ask me?

It reminded me of a story a good friend told me when he was working in Africa almost 40years ago with UNICEF working to solve health problems through visual thinking—illustrations and later animation.

They were working hard on encouraging the locals in Somalia to wash their hands. It seemed a simple enough problem to solve. The team before them had drawn a similar set of hands as above with some running water.

However, there was no improvement when they returned. In fact the problem seemed to be getting worse. They couldn’t understand it. The problem was that they hadn’t taken the time to understand the local culture. Talking to the locals was a constant uphill battle due to the language barrier but my friend and his team spend the time to understand the situation more deeply.

The problem? The hands were detached from the arms. While this may be ok in the UK or the US, in a country where hands were being regularly chopped off this sent a whole other message to the people. Rather than sending the message that washing hands was good and to be encouraged it sent the opposite.

And that my friend is why all the other emojis are looking so shocked…but don’t worry I spoke to them afterwards and they love your paintings!

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