Spoken word competition helps rangatahi find their voice

By Jessica Tyson

Today the art of spoken word is being celebrated around the country in online events to mark a phantom national poetry day.

More than 120 evemts were planned to take place, including poetry competitions, open mic, medleys and showcases. However, with Alert Level Four restrictions in place, the poetry party has been moved online.

Performance poet and educator Te Kahu Rolleston is the host of one competition, the E Tū Whānau Spoken Word competition.

He says the competition has been an amazing outlet and space for rangatahi (young people) and pakeke (adults) to be able share their whakaaro (thoughts).

“We had entries from leaders in te ao Māori but also leaders from all these different communities and they share their voice or the voice of the community. So essentially the result is we have these amazing winners but the result is a collection of poetry that contains the voice of Aotearoa as a whole and it's powerful.”

The theme for the competition was 'Ngā Moemoeā: Hopes and dreams for my world, my future, my whānau'.

Some of the big names that took part in the competition include New Zealand poets Tusiata Avia and Hinemoana Baker.

“For me, it's always awesome seeing amazing poets like that, that are well known," Rolleston says. "But, for me, the highlight is hearing from these new voices, these young voices, these people who are taking the initiative to share their whakaaro.”

He says poetry allows people to use language creatively, and is a skill that was “passed down from our tūpuna”.

“The proof of that is in the mōteatea and the whakatauki and the kōrero we have passed down from them that are still just as magnificent today as they would have been back then.”

He says people in the competition have created bilingual spoken word poems to teach and learn te reo Māori.

“As just being able to tell a story, bilingually, you are actually teaching people, this is how you say it in English. This is how you say it in Māori and back and forth.”

The winners of the E Tū Whānau Spoken Word Competition 2021 are:

Rangatahi Category (18 years and under)

  • 1st place: DREAMS OF DIVERSITY entered by Kyllah Iosua, Ngāti Kahu  (Auckland)
  • 2nd place: NGĀ PUNA WHAKATAA O ŌKU TŪPUNA entered by Ali’itasi Vae’au, Manawa Paki, Akacia-Jane Rewita; Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Whakarewa i te Reo ki Tūwharetoa (Taupō).
  • 3rd place: FALL OF 3 KINGS entered by Kate Laughter, Ngāti Porou (Auckland)

Highly commended: KANOHI KI TE AO entered by Oceania Pene, Te Arawa (Rotorua)

Open Category (19 years and over)

  • 1st place: IN THE EYES OF MY NIECE entered by Kasi Valu (Wellington)
  • 2nd place: I PRAY entered by Harirewa Rachel Tairaki (Kaikohe)
  • 3rd place: MEN’S MENTAL HEALTH entered by Ryan Teura, Ngāpuhi, Te Arawa, Ngāti Rongo-U, Ngāti Porou (Auckland)

Highly Commended: TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN entered by Cody Stipich, Ngāti Awa (Wellington)

People’s Choice Award

DEAR JACINDA entered by Kasi Valu (Wellington)