The wait is over: Selina receives her tokotoko

Everyone’s talking about it… what, you haven’t heard?  Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh has been given her Laureate tokotoko — at last.

Here Elke Thompson, Manager of Public Programmes, National Library describes the weekend. Thank you Elke!

Welcomed

Beautiful green carvings greet us as we arrive at Matahiwi marae. We’re being welcomed onto the marae and not long after and we’re inside drinking a cuppa.

The next day we’re standing on the other side with mana whenua as we’re welcoming manuhiri, our Poet Laureate, Selina, and her whanau. The powhiri starts, stories are being shared, then the moment we’re all waiting for — the reveal and blessing of the tokotoko.

‘Tusitala’ — Selina’s tokotoko

And what a tokotoko it is — a nifty piece of art, telling tales of mana and friendship.
Peter Ireland gives a wonderful description of Tusitala. (You can read his complete article on Paula Green’s NZ Poetry Shelf website).

'Selina’s tokotoko – ‘Tusitala’ – is carved out of maire, our heaviest indigenous wood, sharing that distinction with the matua tokotoko, to which it has other carved features in common. It is splendidly crowned with a fue or Samoan orator’s fly whisk – and clearer of the air of any unsympathetic spirits.

To aid in what will undoubtedly be a lot of travel, the tokotoko is made in several sections and the fue, which was a gift to Selina from His Highness Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi, unscrews off the top.

LJ Crichton, Catherine Winitana and Jordan Fuima’ono of Project Prima Volta with Selina Tusitala Marsh and Selina’s tokotoko ‘Tusitala’ at Poets’ Night Out.LJ Crichton, Catherine Winitana and Jordan Fuima’ono of Project Prima Volta with Selina Tusitala Marsh and Selina’s tokotoko ‘Tusitala’ at Poets’ Night Out. Photographer unidentified.


Selina speechless ?!

A rare sight — our Poet Laureate is speechless. But not for long and soon we’re watching her and her whanau perform a dance of gratitude as rain drizzles from the sky and birds are singing.
Selina on the paepae after receiving her tokotoko, with Serie Barford, Michele Leggott and husband Mark Fryer, Bill and Kate Macnaught.Selina on the paepae after receiving her tokotoko, with Serie Barford, Michele Leggott and husband Mark Fryer, Bill and Kate Macnaught. Photographer: Fiona Lam Sheung


Selina performing her Siva dance with the help of her family, including husband Dave, underfoot.Selina performing her Siva dance with the help of her family, including husband Dave, underfoot. Photographer: Joan McCracken

Celebration

After the closing karakia we get to hear poems and waiata. I’ve got tears in my eyes as the first student, a young girl, performs the most amazing haka to Selina followed by her heartfelt waiata ko au - I’m amazed.

The last performers are LJ Crichton and Jordan Fuima'ono, two young Samoan men from Project Prima Volta , who surprise everyone with their opera performance. What a spectacle!

Selina greeting Taradale High School student Isabelle Lorch following her performance.Selina greeting Taradale High School student Isabelle Lorch following her performance. Photographer: Elizabeth Jones


Poets’ Night Out

We’re ready to go inside, have some kai and catch our breath before the next highlight of our weekend – Poets’ Night Out.

On that evening I hear familiar poems, beautiful, sad, fun and inspiring. I think ‘I’ve heard them before’, but every time I hear them they are different. I think – ‘wow our Poet Laureate is amazing’ and I know everyone thinks the same.

After the poets have shared their poems, Project Prima Volta performs again – this time it’s the familiar sound of ‘Edelweiss’. A weekend to be treasured and remembered concludes.

Everyone’s talking about it

NZ Poet Laureate receives tokotoko — Māori television video
Poet Laureate honoured at Matahiwi Marae — NZ Herald video
National Library’s Peter Ireland on the tokotoko event for our Poet Laureate at Matahiwi — NZ Poetry Shelf website

Selina’s brother Luka Crosbie (on guitar) leads the family in a waiata for Selina.Selina’s brother Luka Crosbie (on guitar) leads the family in a waiata for Selina. Photographer: Elizabeth Jones


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