Nigerian artist Mayowa Alabi, born in Lagos, was one of the artists selected by Opera to create sticker packs for Hype, Opera’s African-inspired chat service built into the Opera Mini browser. 

We wanted local users to feel Nigeria and the exclusivity of the circles they move in through Hype, so we decided to 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. We are thrilled with the collaboration and the end result, which makes online chatting with Hype more fun, local, and engaging. This also makes Opera the first major mobile browser company to integrate real African art and pop culture into its products. 

Since then, Hype has shown incredible growth, with over 3 million sign-ups so far. Thousands of Nigerians are starting to use Hype every day to find new friends, chat with their friends and family online, and discuss a variety of topics with those who are on the same wavelength. All of this along with using the unique stickers designed by Mayowa. 

Opera’s team interviewed Mayowa to get to know more about his path as an artist and how he found inspiration for his designs, including the ones for Hype, as well as to discover the feedback he received from his fans after creating the sticker pack. 

Alabi has been drawing for as long as he can remember, but he considers the time he won an EU comic competition in 2017 as the moment he became a professional digital artist. “Art has always been a part of who I am,” he proudly shares. 

Nigeria, Mayowa’s home country, has always inspired him as a culture. “Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, is the one city where you can find at least one member of each of 250+ Nigerian ethnic groups. Although Lagos is a predominantly western state with Yoruba culture at its core, the coexistence of so many people has created a unique culture set that every single Nigerian can be a part of, regardless of what part of the world they come from,” Mayowa explains. 

When Mayowa got an opportunity to design his own stickers that reflect the emotions of Nigerians and ease the way they communicate online, he was really excited to start working on the project right away. “The stickers I made for Hype gave me a unique opportunity to showcase the way Nigerians interact with each other daily and have people from the rest of the world be a part of our beautiful culture,” he adds. 

The process of creating the stickers was largely inspired by the gestures Nigerians use when they communicate with one another. “I tried to capture all the gestures and ‘slangs’ the best way I could. My end goal was to find a way to make sure it stirs up the curiosity of people outside Nigeria, inspiring them to get in on the action,” Mayowa says. His personal favourite is the “Omo” sticker that can be used in any situation regardless of the context. 

Mayowa is one of millions of Hype users, who really appreciates the app’s user interface and the way illustrations have been integrated. He set up an account, invited his friends to join Hype, and started chatting with secure end-to-end encryption right away. 

The recently-added Find new Friends option, which allows users to easily meet new people within the app, is particularly liked by Alabi. The process is simple. If you’re bored on a Friday evening or tired of always talking to the same people, this feature is your lifeline. All you have to do is to open your Hype account and click Chat with another Hype user now. You are matched with a random person who clicked the same thing and is also willing to make new friends. 

This is where the excitement comes in! You don’t know the age, nationality, occupation, or any other details about your match besides their name and profile picture – you can just enjoy the conversation. When a match is made, you can chat as much as you want while keeping your privacy. It’s only if you both agree to become friends on Hype that you can find each other later and continue the conversation. If you find the match to be uninteresting, you can simply end the chat at any point and find a new match. 

Mayowa not only enjoyed the creation process, but also received positive feedback from his followers on social media. If you want to discover Mayowa’s work and follow his professional success, you can find everything here: http://shutabug.curious.page/ 

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