Except for a few flip-phone wielding Luddites, it’s safe to say that most everyone’s text history is littered with emojis. So powerful are smiley faces and tiny taco pictures, that one of them even earned the honor of the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year. And while it’s unlikely to earn any accolades from the OED, the poop emoji is about to gain some respectability in a different way—helping to bring water and sanitation to people in desperate need.
The non-profit WaterAid, along with the help of an international group of artists are putting up a gallery of poop emojis and other defecation-related (that’s defecation related, not defecation containing) artwork in New York this weekend. Beginning on Thursday November 20—the day after World Toilet Day—pieces will be auctioned off to raise money for sanitation infrastructure in parts of Africa and Asia.
Jon Burgeman's Poop World featured at the GiveAShit Gallery
In addition to the gallery, the program is raising awareness and donations through the beloved smiling picture of poo on your phone’s keyboard. The team designed an app that lets you add a personal touch to the emoji, transforming it into a latte chugging basic bitch, a proper British gentleman or anything else you imagine your poop to be.
With the money from campaigns like this, WaterAid goes on the ground in needy areas, helping locals to dig wells and build safe, useable toilets. “Most people aren’t even aware that this is an issue,” Chris Plehal, who helped create the project said. “But about a third of the people on Earth, 2.3 billion, don’t have toilets.” The results in those areas are polluted water supplies, proliferation of disease and some other tragic, unexpected consequences, like girls who drop out of school when they get their periods because their rural schools don’t have bathrooms.
It’s an uncomfortable topic to discuss, which led the team to its GiveAShit campaign. “The poop emoji is reaching a point of cultural significance. It’s something everyone knows about and uses,” Plehal said, explaining how they’re trying to make a dirty issue a little more fun. “No one talks about the shit issue. We thought there was no better way to do that than through art.”
The Shit Show gallery will be open November 20 – November 22 in Manhattan. You can find more information at Giveashit.info or download the GiveAShit app here. As for Plehal’s favorite piece of work so far? “I made one that looks like Walter White. I call it Heisenturd.”
He’s probably the one who knocks when you’re trying to wipe.