Sport | Black Ferns

Fans to twirl poi in support of wāhine toa at Rugby World Cup 2021

Rugby fans are being encouraged to twirl poi in support of the wāhine toa who will be competing during the Rugby World Cup that begins in Aotearoa next month.

Wā Poi (It’s Poi Time) is aimed at inspiring, educating and uniting rugby fans globally through poi, a unique taonga with special significance to Aotearoa and a symbol of wāhine toa. It 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.

Former Black Ferns captain, New Zealand Rugby Board director and New Zealand Māori Rugby Board chair Dr Farah Palmer says she is 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 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 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 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."

Poi will be made available free to fans as they enter the stadium during each match day from October 8 to  November 12. 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 (Kāi Tahu, Ngāpuhi) 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. The business has since gone from strength to strength, with Georgia’s poi now sold in Countdown supermarkets nationwide.

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.”

A series of educational videos featuring Wihongi, Black Ferns' Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Charmaine McMenamin, Sylvia Logo-i-pulotu Lemapu Atai'i Brunt and Aotearoa celebrities, including K'Lee McNabb a nd Tammy Davis plus sportspeople including Patrick Tito Tuipulotu, Tupou Neiufi, Ally Mayerhofler, Brook Ruscoe and a number of local school children has also been created, 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, and by Jasmine Codlin-Henare of FlaxMaiden at Northland Events Centre.