First Māori emoji already taking social media by storm

The world’s first Maori emoji keyboard ‘Emotiki’ for iPhone and Android is being launched by Te Puia in mid-July with 150 characters including tiki pukana expressions, taiaha, hangi, waka ama, kete and more.

The Emotiki have been in development for six months and Rotorua visitor attraction Te Puia introduced the concept to tourism trade and media at TRENZ in Rotorua two weeks ago, captivating everyone who came in to contact with them. The characters then quickly found their way onto social media and have since been shared around the world.

Emoji is the world’s fastest growing language, with still and moving image characters used in text and social media platforms to express, emphasise and reinforce emotion.

Te Puia General Manager Sales and Marketing, Kiri Atkinson-Crean, says the emoji smiling faces, flags, dancing senoritas, widgets and gadgets have quickly become part of the world’s day to day digital language, but until now, there have been limited New Zealand icons.

“We wanted to create a unique New Zealand equivalent that represents Māori and Kiwi culture and although we were keen to wait until they were available to download to officially launch them, they have taken on a life of their own. We are absolutely blown away by the social media response we’ve experienced, so it seems only fair to share a few more of the details. It’s very exciting.”

The new Māori Emotiki keyboard contains more than 150 characters, representing a broad range of emotions, sports, situations, foods and icons that are familiar to or have been made famous by Māori.

They include waka ama (outrigger canoe), piupiu (flax skirts), kapa haka moves and faces, kete (woven basket/bag), taiaha (weapon), whānau (family) and even delicacies such as koura (crayfish), paua (abalone), eels and hāngi, among others.

“I’m sure everyone will have their own favourites, but I expect that the emotiki equivalent to the famous ‘smiley face’ icon will be a big hit. The tiki emotiki expresses as broad a range of emotions and expressions as the smiley face. And, he is distinctly New Zealand.

“Some of his expressions will be quickly interpreted across cultures. Others such as pūkana (fierce facial expression as evident in haka), are uniquely Māori expressions. We see these as a lighthearted and inclusive way to share the meaning of Māori words and concepts with other cultures, and with all New Zealanders,” says Ms Atkinson-Crean.

There is also a small selection of GIFs, the moving emotikis. They include pukana, poi (swinging ball used in kapa haka performance) taiaha movements and a winking tiki emotiki.

Ms Atkinson-Crean says the seed of this idea came from watching the Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival and Te Arawa Kapa Haka Regionals, where you’d see the kids celebrate each other and their performances on social media.

“All they could use were expressions and symbols from other countries - we wanted to give them another form of this language with Maori culture Emotiki’s for an opportunity to express themselves.

“We’ve purposely made Emotiki’s free so they can be used with no barriers by all people – not only Māori and not just New Zealanders. That said, we hope Māori and Kiwis in general really embrace these cool little guys.”

Ms Atkinson-Crean says a great deal of thought and consideration has gone into the Emotiki development, including sharing the concepts to the Te Puia pakeke (elders) and being given their blessing.

“Many of them already knew about the smiley faces and they ‘got’ the Emotiki concept immediately. They loved them and gave us their blessing that we were on the right track.

“We can’t wait until they’re available for everyone to use.”

The keyboard will be available through app stores for iPhone and android by mid-July and will be free to download. A range of merchandise and apparel is also in development.