Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenyan illustrator Lulu Kitololo is one of the artists selected by Opera to create the new sticker packs for Hype, Opera’s new chat service built into the Opera Mini browser. 

Thousands of Kenyans are starting to use Hype every day to chat with their friends and family online, and using the stickers designed by Lulu. These stickers have been designed to give Kenyans the pleasure of sensuous and imaginative apprehension, and a way to better express themselves with others. 

“I wanted to convey the creativity, confidence and even sassiness of the Hype demographic. I wanted users to feel understood and well-represented, finding stickers that are authentic to their experience.” 

Like the rest of the world, the African messenger landscape is noisy and fragmented, with users posting, sharing and snapping uniformly; a direct result of international messenger services monopolising local attention. This is where HYPE is different: rather than offering just another means of connecting, Hype aims to transform this connection into a vibrant community of its own, starting with the communities it represents, and reflecting how they authentically connect. This meant considering everything, from how users in these regions speak, to what they speak about.

This was the logical departure point for this project: if we want local users to feel Nairobi and the exclusivity of the circles they move in through Hype, we should work with illustrators and designers who move in those circles themselves. Using Behance, we scoured dozens of local African artist portfolios until we landed on a shortlist that best served the Hype goals.

When Opera and FORT first approached Lulu, she was really excited about the idea that a tech company like Opera was developing a product that recognizes the younger generation of African internet users. She found it refreshing to see an organisation recognize this unique, vibrant, creative and dynamic demographic, and see that they deserve an investment in something custom-made.

“The whole experience was such a pleasure. I loved the brief, especially as African culture – in all its diversity – is one of my biggest inspirations. I also really enjoyed working with the FORT team – it was such a smooth and seamless process.”

In conversation with Lulu, she explained to us that it was culture, diversity, and most importantly, the people around her, that inspired her work with the Pan-African sticker packs. 

“I got inspired by conversations with my team! They are the very demographic that Hype is for, so we had a lot of fun reflecting on our experiences and youth culture. And while designing the pan-African stickers, it was interesting to explore the similarities and differences across the continent, and how much is borrowed and shared.” 

Lulu has always been an artist. She uses her creativity to approach problem solving and she considers it her strongest ally in navigating through life. 

“I’ve been drawing since I can remember, and I was constantly creating things as a child. I took art as a subject in high school and then went to an art school for my undergraduate studies. I did very well in all subjects in school, so people expected that I would pursue the sciences (I especially loved mathematics), but I chose the arts. In retrospect I can appreciate that my love for problem-solving is at the root of enjoying these seemingly different subjects. In my career, I get to use creativity as a tool for coming up with solutions for all kinds of communication challenges.” 

There are thousands of Kenyans right now chatting in Hype and using the Lulu Kitololo sticker packs to communicate with each other. If you are interested in seeing more of Lulu’s work, you can follow her on Instagram @lulukitololo or on her website www.lulukitololo.com where you can also read her blog Afri-love. If you are also interested in visiting her studio, you can do it at the same compound as Pallet Cafe.

If you are not using Hype or Opera Mini yet, click here to download and try it today. Remember to follow Hype on Instagram!

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