When Kyllah Iosua (Ngāti Kahu) heard that she had won the E Tū Whānau Spoken Word Competition 2021, she screamed with excitement. The news was even sweeter because the day she got the phone call happened to be her 13th birthday.
Kyllah’s entry, Dreams of Diversity, was chosen by the three judges as the winner of the first E Tū Whānau Spoken Word Competition in the rangatahi category (18 years and under). The theme for the competition was Ngā Moemoeā: Hopes and dreams for my world, my future, my whānau, and entrants were asked to also make a connection in some way to the E Tū Whānau kaupapa.
Kyllah said her spoken word piece is about how, as a Māori girl, she interprets diversity. “My dreams are diversity. I want the world to be a diverse place and more accepting of diversity,” she says.
“My inspiration was to share everything that I was thinking and to say what I wanted to say and not what I thought people wanted to hear.”Kyllah Iosua
Moerangi Tetapuhi, one of the competition judges, commented that while she would usually struggle to comprehend that a 12-year-old was responsible for Kyllah’s entry, she is no longer surprised by the capabilities of this generation.
“You were powerful, commanding, and articulate. You performed your piece with so much chill in your voice,” says Moerangi Tetapuhi.
Other comments from the judges were that Kyllah Iosua’s piece was “well-constructed, tied with a clever selection of words and language features along with high performance skills. It is the perfect way to get your important message of diversity out there.”
Kyllah, who lives in Auckland, is a keen writer and a poet but she usually just writes for herself. The competition gave her a chance to write for an audience, as well as to perform.
Chance for Kyllah Iosua to meet other spoken word poets
In her prize package Kyllah received the substantial first prize of $2,500. Alongside the cash prize, she won the chance to perform at this year’s Word–The Front Line Grand Slam 2021 – an annual inter-high school event for finalists in a national spoken word competition organised by Action Education. The event, which is a big one in the poetry slam calendar, is planned for later in the year and will be held in the Auckland Town Hall. Plans will be confirmed as soon as there is some certainty around COVID lockdown levels. This will be the biggest audience Kyllah has performed for and, while she is nervous, she said she is definitely up for the challenge.
“With spoken word, you get to put in so much emotion and passion. That’s what I love so much about it. If you are a young person and you think that you have a lot to say and a lot to share about your experiences in the world, spoken word is a good way to share it.”Kyllah Iosua