Wellingtonian and drama school student Kasi Valu took out first prize in the open category for his piece, In the Eyes of My Niece.
Kasi explains why his piece focuses on the younger generation.
“I always look towards the younger generation as to what we need in this world; what do they need? The hopes and dreams and aspirations of the future lie in the eyes of the children. I based this piece on my niece who is four, but I have other nieces and little cousins, so it draws on all these little kids in my life.”
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.
This is the first time Kasi has tried his hand at spoken word – he says this competition encouraged him to give it a go. Now Kasi is sold on it, and loves the challenge of spoken word poetry.
In his spoken word piece, Kasi Valu pays tribute to the strong maternal figures in his life – “my gran, my mentors, my friends, the people I love. Those people, who also happen to be women, were the driving muse behind writing this. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to write the way I write.
When I watch other people’s work, I know I could never do that, but inside that lies the challenge … what can I say with my voice? I got something to say – and this is the way I wanna say it and these are the people behind me, that back me up,” he says.
Kasi is very clear about the need to share positive messages.
“It’s always so good to drive a message, especially in the times that we’re living in; to drive a political message, to drive truth forward, to stand for truth in a world where we’re just so confused about what is fact and what is fiction.”
The competition judges commented that Kasi’s “kōrero is a strong painting of reality”. They also noted that they “heard the suffering of the land in your story. You used your voice in a powerful way by changing the tone of voice and volume whilst still remaining assertive in every story.”
Kasi Valu wins substantial prizes
While the cash prize of $2500 is of course very welcome, Kasi is excited about the special prize package. It includes flights and accommodation to Christchurch to perform his winning entry at the 2021 NZ Poetry Slam National Final on 20 November. It’s a great chance to make connections and enjoy the atmosphere among other passionate poets.
“I’ve always heard of those poetry slam competitions growing up, but I’ve never participated so it will be nice to go and add my two cents in, and see what people think,” says Kasi.
Kasi was also voted winner of the People’s Choice Award for Dear Jacinda, his second entry into the competition. For this, he took home an additional cash prize of $1500.