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Georgia Tiatia Fa'atoese Latu: The Dunedin teen bringing poi to the world


Oct. 05, 2019

GEORGIA: There hasn't been a time when I don't remember poi. They've always been a part of me. My mum lectures at the University of Otago so I went to one of them and there was a lady making poi. I might have been 6. She said "Georgia do you want to learn?" and I said, "sure".
My first ever poi, oh my gosh, I can't even explain how bad it is but I love it. I gave it to my Gami and she still has it to this day – a big funny looking poi.
Poi is such a cool Māori art and it can be used whenever. You can perform it at a tangihanga, at a marena – wedding – anywhere. It's just so beautiful.
Making poi, I love giving back to my taha Māori and spreading it across the whole world. I just want everyone to know, that hey, this is me, this is me.
We've sent some to France, Aussie and I think America. We've had people look at our website from Canada, Germany, Aussie, America and New Zealand, so all walks of life are looking at our poi. It's just so awesome to think that a little fundraiser could become potentially my life.
We chose the name Pōtiki Poi because earlier this year my mum gave birth to my baby brother Api and he was born with Down syndrome. Pōtiki in the Māori dictionary means youngest child and we feel that that name acknowledges his place within the whānau and Tahu Potiki is my ancestor from my Ngai Tahu side.
Api, he's my little man – we just do everything together. He's like my number one supporter.
I've got a baby sister Kyra. She's like a cyclone. She just rips through the whole house messing everything up. She gets the poi and she starts swinging it. She just turned 2 and she already knows how to do two poi. She's pretty good.
I try as much as I can [to speak te reo Māori] at home and I'm teaching Mum, too. She understands and can korero but my baby sister, she loves to korero Māori. She's always telling me off in Māori.
We have a diverse home because my step-dad, he's Samoan, so we also speak Samoan at home. [Kyra] tells me off in Samoan too. It's so funny.
I love my home. We've got sign language as well: sign language, te reo Māori, pākehā, and Samoan thriving in our home.
As soon as I get home, I can bet $5 on it, I'll have to do poi. I get in the door and my mum's like, "Hurry up Georgia, you have to braid this."
We visit op shops to get our old wool. We go all across Dunedin. I don't like the idea of global warming and I want to give back to Papatūānuku and Tangaroa, that's why we use biodegradable plastic bags.
We've done a lot of research on poi. Over a 60-year time period all of the original, OG, poi made from harakeke and raupo are just gone. Everyone went straight to plastic and new products.
So we went to the museum and had a look. They are beautiful. They were dyed with different colours, they were twisted not braided and they were decorated with dog hairs.
It was so cool to see what my tupuna used. Me and mum and the whole Pōtiki Poi team want to revitalise poi. Hopefully we're going to start planting raupo and harakeke and harvest and make the original poi someday.
Our kuia remember when they were my age they used to make them all the time. One of our nannies said she'll teach us all of the tricks of the trade.
When I was younger I thought I was going to be a dentist so a lot of things have changed but in a good way. I knew as well I had a passion for te ao Māori, all of the arts. I loved it.
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