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emoji-akerte // about

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 for people to use. 


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. An 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.

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?


The stickers are available for you to use and share through a free app available through the App Store and Google Play. It was launched in November 2019 with a BBQ at Alice Spring Public Library and Indigemoji Disco at Brown Street Youth Drop-in Centre.

About Katetyemoji

kaytetyemoji-we // about

In early 2022, a group of Kaytetye speakers got together to develop Kaytetyemoji. 


After the success of the Indigemoji app, additional resources became available to invest in innovative language projects. The Arrernte Indigemoji team decided to support a Kaytetye languageproject, as they knew Kaytetye was considered a highly endangered Australian language, with only 109 speakers listed in the 2021 census, which was down nine per cent since the previous census.

Over many months, our team went through a process of translating the relevant Indigemojis from Arrernte to Kaytetye as well as designing 44 new emojis for plants, animals and other important parts of Kaytetye life and culture, with the help of graphic designers. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the team used mobile phones to check emojis and their meanings with other Kaytetye speakers too. We made recordings of the word to match each emoji, along with example phrases which you can find on this app.

The main emoji representing our set is ‘artnke’ which means flat-topped hills, a significant feature of Kaytetye country. You see these hills when you come towards Barrow Creek. Other neighbouring language groups also recognise artnke as a feature of Kaytetye country.

So these are apps to encourage young people to learn their languages! The digital generation never go anywhere without their phones and now they can share Kaytetye!

The stickers are available for you to use and share through a free app available through the App Store and Google Play. It was launched in April 2023 at the Barrow Creek Hotel.


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



Eastern and Central Arrernte to English Dictionary

John Henderson and Veronica Dobson, 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



📚 nyarte nte arewene // useful links



Kaytetye birds


Kaytetye recordings

Kaytetye hand signs

Kaytetye books at Territory Stories (type Kaytetye in the search bar)

The Kaytetye dictionaries from IAD press are currently unavailable. A pilot version of the online Kaytetye picture dictionary can be found here. For an electronic version of the Kaytetye dictionary please email Myfany Turpin.

Videos from ICTV in Kaytetye:

The Batchelor Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics lists further Kaytetye resources

🏆 accolades



2020 Prix Ars Electronica

Honorary Mention

Recognised in the world's biggest media arts competition, Indigemoji received an Honorary Mention in the Digital Communities Category, out of more than 3000 submissions.

Read more



2020 Webby Award Honoree

Indigemoji was named an Honoree in the Public Service & Activism Category which recognise apps facilitating political change, social movement, human rights, public education and reform, or revolution

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