Indigemoji has launched Australia’s first brand of First Nations emojis designed by young Indigenous people in Central Australia.

The app features 90 emojis representing the life, culture and environment of Arrernte Country in Central Australia, with each sticker named in Arrernte – the traditional language of the Mparntwe/Alice Springs area where they were created.

The emojis were designed by young people during seven weeks of workshops at the Alice Springs Public Library as part of a Geek in Residence program funded by a Government grant and the Alice Springs Town Council.

Nearly 1,000 young Indigenous people participated in the design process, learning how to create emojis and enhance their digital literacy.

Yankunytjatjara artist and designer originally from Amata in the APY Lands of South Australia, Emma Stubbs first became involved with her two kids when she heard of an arts program running at the local library during the school holidays.

After helping her kids with their drawings, she developed a passion for the Indigemoji project and started helping other young people involved with the program as well as designing emojis herself.

Ms Stubbs said Indigemoji empowers Indigenous people to be represented on popular digital platforms to promote their culture.

“It’s a way of decolonising the internet during a time of rapid technology uptake in Central Australia,” Ms Stubbs said.

“It’s important for our people to see Indigenous emojis through the internet and through social media mediums, it’s our way of saying we’re here, we’re doing stuff to stay here and we’re proud of that, not only just having pictures or emojis but also having that language there.”

Ms Stubbs said Indigenous emojis allow First Nations Peoples to continue their tradition of storytelling through new online platforms to keep up with modern technology.

“It’s very important, a lot of young people – not just indigenous people, but around Australia – can have conversations just full of emojis and so being able to use the Aboriginal hearts instead of the red hearts to say ‘I love you’ is quite empowering in itself,” she said.

“It’s a way of storytelling as well, Indigenous people are awesome storytellers and we’ve been telling stories for centuries and the way we pass on our culture is through drawing and stories so I think it’s quite appropriate that it’s Indigenous specific to show that we’re modernising it in a sense.”

In the future, Ms Stubbs hopes other Indigenous language groups are inspired to create their own set of emojis to represent their culture.

Despite Indigemoji having stickers that represent all Indigenous people, Ms Stubbs said there is room to add more emojis to represent the diversity of Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.

“I have always wondered why don’t we have the Aboriginal flag in the iPhone keyboard emojis, and to have the sticker that we can use and download on our phone is pretty awesome, so it’s not just specific to Central Australia its for Indigenous people all around Australia to use,” Ms Stubbs said.

“It would be awesome to see other language groups around Australia to adapt what’s been done to suit their area because obviously if you go to somewhere up in WA, you’re going to have different emojis because they’re near the ocean.”

The Indigemoji sticker set app is free to download from the App Store and Google Play.

By Sarah Mozley