Rugby World Cup 2021 has today launched a movement to unite rugby fans to twirl poi in support of the wāhine toa who will be competing during the tournament starting on 8 October.
Wā Poi (It’s Poi Time) is aimed at inspiring, educating and uniting rugby fans globally through poi, a unique taonga (treasure) with special significance to Aotearoa New Zealand and a symbol of wāhine toa (women champions).
Poi is the name for both the Māori performance art, most commonly seen performed by wāhine in Kapa Haka, and the objects twirled during the performance. Originally made from harakeke (New Zealand flax) and raupō, they are now typically made using a variety of modern materials including loomed fabrics, wool, foam and even paper.
Poi were traditionally used by warriors to limber up their wrists in preparation for battle. In recent times poi have become commonplace in schools and kura around the motu, with tamariki making poi and performing. The twirling of poi can also be a way to build unity as a group in the way they create a beat when swung into the hand.
The Wā Poi (It's Poi Time) movement is designed to create an unforgettable atmosphere in stadiums, filling the stands with the unique sights and sounds of poi, reflecting the beating heart of Aotearoa and sharing the beauty of Te Ao Māori with the world.
Consultation and cultural guidance from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, NZ Rugby Māori Cultural Advisor Luke Crawford, Whangārei Hapū group and poi expert Pere Wihongi, have been key to the development of Wā Poi and ensuring it is tikanga (culturally correct).
Former Black Ferns captain, member of the New Zealand Rugby Board and Chair of the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board, Dr. Farah Palmer ONZM said, “We are proud and excited to have worked with some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s masters in the art of poi. Their guidance and support means we can share this taonga in a way that is tika (culturally correct) and in a way that we hope will unite and inspire nations to get behind their teams. The use of poi will allow them to support in an exciting and unique visual way that is poi rere (flying poi) and the resonating sounds of poi paki (percussive poi). As someone who enjoyed poi in kapa haka as a teenager, I am really looking forward to being part of this poi-formance.”
Rugby World Cup 2021 has also worked closely with stadium venues and security in preparation for rugby fans to bring the energy with poi and create a truly unique and captivating tournament experience.
Rugby World Cup 2021 Tournament Director, Michelle Hooper said, “Poi holds such a special place in the hearts and minds of New Zealanders, with many of us learning to make and twirl poi at a young age. They are a Māori taonga (treasure) and a beautiful representation of our mana wāhine. Wā Poi is therefore a fitting way for fans to show their support for the women taking the field this tournament.
“We can’t wait to see stadiums filled with the sights and sounds of poi as the world has its eyes on us this October to November and we hope this will continue on as a legacy for the way in which we show our support for women’s sport in years to come.”
Poi will be made available free to fans as they enter the stadium during each match day from 8 October to 12 November. Thousands of poi are being produced by a range of local suppliers, with Rugby World Cup 2021 focused on working with burgeoning Māori businesses and ensuring sustainable materials are used.
Among them is Ōtepoti Dunedin-based start-up, Pōtiki Poi, owned and operated by 16-year-old Georgia Latu (Kaitahu whānui, Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu) and her māmā Anna. Georgia started the business three years ago, making upcycled poi in her lounge, with the aim of supporting her youngest brother who was born with Trisomy 21. Pōtiki translates to youngest child, acknowledging her brother and her ancestor Tahu Pōtiki. The business has since gone from strength to strength, with Georgia’s poi now sold in Countdown supermarkets nationwide.
Pōtiki Poi chief executive Georgia Latu said, "Making poi for Rugby World Cup 2021 has been such an exciting history-making opportunity. Thanks to all my whānau and friends who have made each and every poi by hand. ‘Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini’ - Success is not the work of an individual, but the work of many.”
Special, a leading independent creative company, has produced a series of educational videos featuring contemporary Māori performance artist and award-winning musician Pere Wihongi, Black Ferns Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Charmaine McMenamin, Sylvia Logo-i-pulotu Lemapu Atai’i Brunt, RWC 2021 Champions including K’Lee McNabb, Jay Reeve and Tammy Davis, Tom Robinson, Patrick Tito Tuipulotu, Tupou Neiufi, Ally Mayerhofler, Brook Ruscoe, Te-Rina Gregory-Hawke and a number of local school children. The videos are aimed at educating fans on the correct and respectful use of poi, demonstrating how fans can make their own DIY poi at home and generating support for the movement amongst fans worldwide.
A community engagement programme will see schools, kura, community groups and holiday programmes involved in making poi as part of the movement.
DIY poi-making workshops will also be hosted by Poi Yeah – a small whanau-owned business led by Te-Rina Gregory-Hawke at all match days in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, and by Jasmine Codlin-Henare of FlaxMaiden at Northland Events Centre.
Rugby World Cup 2021 is taking place in New Zealand from 8 October to 12 November, the first time the pinnacle event has been staged in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s the biggest global event in women’s 15s rugby and will be contested by the top 12 teams in the world at three match venues – Eden Park, Waitākere Stadium and Northland Events Centre.
Incredible performances celebrating wāhine toa in music and sport will create a spectacular entertainment showcase with renowned artists Rita Ora, BENEE and Shapeshifter taking to the stage at Eden Park. Rita Ora will perform first on opening match day on Saturday 8 October, followed by Shapeshifter during the semi-finals on Saturday 5 November and BENEE the last headline act to perform during the finals on Saturday 12 November.
Accessible ticket prices start from just $5 for kids and $10 for adults*. For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://tickets2021.rugbyworldcup.com
*Prices applicable to cash purchases made through Ticketek agents or outlets. Online purchases may attract additional payment processing and delivery fees.