emoji-akerte // about

Emoji itne-areye Australia mpwepe-arenye. itne ayeye anwerne-akerte, altyerre-akerte, angkentye akerte uthene. Arrernte angkentye anwernekenhe impene anthurre, altyerrenge. Australian-mpwepe angkentye atningke akerte kenhe Arrernte Mparntwe-arenye kwenhe. Marle, urreye, arelhe, artwe-areye-uthene-arle emoji-kenhe arlkenye intelheleke uterne-ureke. Emoji arrpe-anenhe arritnye Arrernte-kenhe-akerte, anwerne ahentye arrantherre itnenhe akaltye-irretyeke. Anwerne internet-nge itnenhe arrerneke kele angkentye anwernekenhe rlterrke-aneme-akwete. 

This project began with a tweet.


A tweet featuring a list of emojis with Arrernte words next to them. A tweet the internet couldn’t get enough of.


It followed years of conversation and petitions around Australia about why there weren't any First Nations emoji out there. 


First designed in Japan in 1999, the official emoji set is controlled by the Unicode Consortium, who decide which are included and which aren’t. Increasingly it is addressing issues concerning representation and diversity but an application for a new emoji must demonstrate widespread usage and can take years to approve. Many, such as the Aboriginal Flag, are rejected.

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It was time to take matters into our own hands, to make our own set. Soon a team of emoji bosses came together,  Joel Liddle Perrule, Veronica Dobson Perrurle and Kathleen Wallace Kemarre. Together we began dreaming of what a set of emojis from Central Australia could look like. A few things became clear, this was a project about language, new and old, and it aimed to involve as many young people.


A few months later, it was the first day of the summer school holidays and we were in the youth corner of the Alice Springs Public Library with a set of iPads and seven weeks of emoji workshops ahead of us, thanks to a Northern Territory Government Youth Activities Grant.

The library is a very special place in Alice Springs. Young people will tell you it’s one of the few places in town that they feel welcome and safe. Over the last few years it was attracting more and more young people, some from in town, others from remote communities. As numbers grew, it was challenging for library staff, who wanted to meet their needs and create a safe environment for them. And so a program called Geek in Residence began with support from CAYLUS and Centrecorp. It offered a learning space model in the library based around well-being and safety first, and digital access second. Youth workers and artists joined the team, inspiring curiosity and creativity from young people. 


It was the perfect home for our project. 

Over the 2018-19 summer school holidays, 960 young people participated. The library became a hub of drawing, designing, making, experimenting and discussing language. Many had never used an iPad before. They were mentored by a group of talented local First Nations artists Graham Wilfred Jnr, Phillip McCormack, Emma Stubbs and Colleen Powell, who were in the space all summer thanks to support from inDigiMOB, a digital inclusion partnership between First Nations Media Australia and Telstra. We ended up with hundreds and hundreds of drawings and emoji concepts, many of which you can see on this website alongside the final emojis.


Read more about the full team here.


Indigemoji is now a sticker set of 90 emojis representing life, culture and language of Arrernte Country in Central Australia, closely considered and guided by our emoji bosses. Each has an Arrernte name, the traditional language of Mparntwe/Alice Springs, words we hope you’ll learn. We’ve also developed emojis for special totemic species, either endangered or extinct. A simple emoji of a bilby or a bandicoot promotes their memory, their name, their places in the landscape where they sprang into existence in the Altyerre and where they moved about on their epic journeys. This way they remain in our landscape.


The stickers are available for you to use and share through a free app available through the App Store and Google Play, which was developed by Leigh Harris at Indigenous design agency Ingeous Studios in Cairns.

This project comes at a critical time of rapid technology uptake and new connectivity in Central Australia. It invites local people to imagine what they could do with these new platforms. How are they not just another colonising force? And how can we embed our languages and culture in them, to make them our own? That’s what Indigemoji has been about. 


Indigemoji was launched on Friday 22 November 2019 with a BBQ at Alice Spring Public Library and Indigemoji Disco at Brown Street Youth Drop-in Centre.



📚 angwenhe-arle anwerneke-ileke // good knowledge - references

Eastern and Central Arrernte to English Dictionary

John Henderson and Veronica Dobson, Veronica, 1994, IAD Press, Alice Springs, NT

Eastern and Central Arrernte Picture Dictionary

Neil Broad, 2008, IAD Press, Alice Springs, NT

Climate Change; Learning about what is happening with the weather in central Australia

Meg Mooney, Fiona Walsh, Ro Hills, Jocelyn Davies, Ashley Sparrow, Central Land Council Ltyentye Apurte Rangers, 2014, Central Land Council, 
Alice Springs, NT

Bushfires & bushtucker : Aboriginal plant use in Central Australia

Peter Latz, illustrated by Jenny Green, IAD Press, Alice Springs, NT

Apmere angkentye-kenhe