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In July 2019, Ngā Hine Pūkōrero, a group of four Rangatahi Maori poets, made history by competing at the 2019 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam in Las Vegas, USA. They were the first team from Australasia to ever compete in the festival, the largest of its kind in the world with over 500 young poets in attendance. They finished between 9th and 11th out of 50 teams, farther than any international team in its first year of competition, and earned the chance to share their work on the Finals stage in front of the entire BNV community.
As the first NZ poets to attend Brave New Voices they were tasked with the unique challenge of sharing stories and language that many of the other participants may not be familiar with. In order to bring their true stories to BNV, and the United States, they not only had to be poets but also historians and cultural ambassadors, something that most other teams never had to consider.
They covered topics such as land rights, domestic abuse within Aotearoa, language reclamation, gun violence and the Christchurch terror attacks, the power of indigenous women’s voices, colonisation, Captain Cook and the Dawn Raids.
While visiting the United States, Ngā Hine Pūkōrero were the featured artists at Da Poetry Lounge, the largest weekly poetry event in the United States which draws over 300 audience members to historic Greenway Court Theatre in Hollywood California.
The team spent more than 186 hours rehearsing, including a facilitation role at our annual Slam Camp where they worked on material for the competition and provided inspiration to the next generation of WORD - The Front Line participants, who were thrilled that a local team were going to represent ‘them’ on the world stage.
During the Brave New Voices competition, Ngā Hine Pūkōrero shared their stories with more than 4,500 live audience members and a further 122,000 viewers through Facebook Live.
“The New Zealand team made me remember why I fell in love with Slam . How the nature of call and response, of truth and urgency, is the oldest Pacific tradition. It was an honour to meet with these contemporary navigators.”