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The new Indigenous emojis coming to your smartphone screen

Giovanni Torre -

Australia's first set of Indigenous emojis is teaching language and culture while also bringing greater representation into texts and social media.

Almost 1,000 young people in Mparntwe/Alice Springs, working with senior Arrernte cultural advisors, developed the emojis.

The Indigemoji project began with a tweet featuring a list of emojis with Arrernte words next to them, which sparked renewed debate around representation in digital media.

Over the 2018-19 summer school holidays, 960 young people turned the Alice Springs Public Library into a hub of drawing, designing, making, experimenting and discussing language.

"There was a great effort put in to deciding which ideas to incorporate - we kept a strong focus on the language itself" - Graham Wilfred Jnr

They were mentored by First Nations artists Graham Wilfred Jnr, Phillip McCormack, Emma Stubbs and Colleen Powell.

Arnhem Land-based lead artist Mr Wilfred Jnr said the children played a "huge" role in the designs.

"One day I got the call. We got papers, pencils and an iPad and started working with the kids on doing all sorts of artwork," he said.

"We started working on an Indigenous project, teaching the kids graphic designing, shading, all this stuff. Many had never used an iPad before.

"There was a great effort put in to deciding which ideas to incorporate - we kept a strong focus on the language itself.

Mr Wilfred Jnr said he hoped the emojis would have a lasting impact.

"I hope it goes a long way and there are more projects... inspiring other kids out there wanting to get into graphic design, and maybe want to get a job with their art," he said.

"I hope it would give a sense of identity and of where they come from, what they stand for, get them learning about laws and culture and keeping it strong."

Indigemoji is now a sticker set of 90 emojis representing life, culture and language of Arrernte Country in Central Australia.

There are also emojis for special totemic species, either endangered or extinct.

The stickers can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

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