Last Friday I was invited to the Aranui High School Music Block as the “library representative” to BRAVE- Daisy Poetry Promenade and her very special guests. Being the uncultured and not very creative heathen that I am, I wasn’t in the slightest prepared for this mind-blowing space collaboration of Samoan heritage, arts, music, and the poetry of Daisy herself. Just to put things into perspective, I know Daisy in a rugby-sense, that power that she exudes so effortlessly on the rugby field is ever present in her art, music, and this poetry promenade.

Daisy - Photo Credit: Joseph O'Sullivan Photography
Daisy. Photo Credit: Joseph O’Sullivan Photography

There were six stages in the promenade, our group of 60-odd was split into two groups and as we passed each other from stage to stage you could sense both the anticipation of the next space and excitement fizzing over from the last visited space.

In the first space: Vasa (vasa is the Samoan word for sea or open ocean) – Daisy’s family took centre stage with husband Seta Timo picking a traditional Samoan hymn on the double bass, followed by daughter Hadassah – all of seven years old – relating her experience as a second-generation NZ born Samoan in the poem “I am a teine Samoa.” Daisy and Hadassah spoke of the fibres of their lives being interwoven like a fine mat, this for me, was the perfect analogy of the richness and beauty of the whole performance.

The different stages wove the strands of Daisy and her life thus far, showcasing the musical Pasifika talents of Christchurch including DJ Infared – fresh off an international DJ tour, Christchurch’s premier session band – The Judah Band, Nathan Phillips, Zion Tauamiti, and some massive gospel talent with Lady Julz representing South Auckland. Each stage was threaded together by Daisy’s poetry, and there was also an emergence of new poetic talent incorporated in Annabel Ariki and Maddie Mills of Cashmere High School.

The integration of the Samoan culture was something to behold, captured by Joseph O’Sullivan and John Ross. O’Sullivan and Ross emboldened some of Christchurch’s pe’a, malofie (pe’a or malofie is the Samoan tatau – tattoo –  for men) and malu (Samoan tatau for women wearers – including Daisy) to tell the tales of their tatau through videography and photography. The moving full-length contents of these interviews and some of the images will eventually be gifted to high schools in Christchurch to include in their Samoan Language curriculum.

In parallel to Daisy’s oratory capabilities, the last stage was a re-enactment of a si’i alofa, which is a gift giving ritual that takes place at a wedding or funeral. The si’i alofa is usually a place where the chiefly Samoan language is spoken, they speak poetically and in metaphors and make reference to history, myths and legends, and the natural world. Like the si’i alofa, in the words of Daisy herself, at the centre of it all is love.

This collaborative space project was enabled largely through the love of many people; people that share a love for the arts, Samoan culture and ultimately the drive, vision and love of one woman, Daisy Lavea-Timo who is well beyond Brave. This show is one that will no doubt be shared on all creative platforms and stages not just here in Christchurch but further afield.

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Cover of The Elocutionist Cover of Ua tālā le ta'ui

Tattoo you: Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2013

New Zealand tattoo: in the home of the tattoist’s art by Chris Hoult and Steve Forbes is a beautiful book: “a snapshot of the tattoo scene in 2011 and 2012”. Photojournalist Chris and writer Steve have made something rather special. Their session managed to convey the richness of the tattooing culture even though as they said “We’re photojournalists, we’re not noted for our oratory”. They showed a series of striking images as part of their presentation.

The book’s genesis was in an observation of Europe’s keen interest in ta moko. A sample chapter was created for the Frankfurt Book Fair, and it proceeded from there. Just after the book was given the go-ahead, the biennial tattoo convention in Auckland took place – so they had the potential for new material for their book.  After the convention, they decided focusing on a dozen artists wasn’t enough.

Steve Forbes then explained more about the history of ta moko and tattooing in New Zealand. Tattoo chisels have been found in our oldest archaeological dig sites. Mokomokai (preserved tattooed heads) once became a macabre commerce. Some chiefs who signed The Treaty of Waitangi drew their distinctive moko patterns as their signature. But as time moved on and ta moko declined, the last bastion was the kuia who wore the chin moko.

He delved more into the history including the Samoan influence, and the controversy around non-Maori like Robbie Williams sporting traditional designs.

So how many Kiwis are tattooed? Apparently we are the most tattooed people on earth – in 5 Kiwis are inked. 22% of women, 17% of men. Interestingly, only five of us in the crowd ‘fessed up to being inked – and neither of the two writers are.

The more recent tattooists and their business was explored with lots of great examples. Many of the current crop of tattooists are art school graduates and young, keen and smart business people.

Chris had some top tips if you are thinking of getting inked:

  1. Choose your design carefully.
  2. Don’t get tattooed under the influence of drink, drugs, or strong emotions.
  3. Get inked after New Year’s. Lots of people book in November, but then spend their holiday pay so often tattooists have free time early in the new year.
  4. “Beware because they are artists and they are looking for fresh, blank canvas – you”
  5. Cheap tattoos aren’t good, good tattoos aren’t cheap.

Tattoo Aotearoa sessionWriter Steve Forbes and photographer Chris HoultDonna and photographer Chris Hoult