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Mihi - a speech of welcome from a Wellington poet

Thu, 03 Feb 2005

Mihi - a speech of welcome from a Wellington poet

“The weight of the word on my tongue eats the roof of the world.”

Lovers of edgy, challenging poetry will be in for a treat during the Wellington Fringe Festival 2005. Mihi, a poetry storytelling show by a Wellington-based poet, comedian and storyteller, Matthew Simcock, will be staged in Bats theatre between 14 and 17 February as a part of the festival. The great success of Mihi, which also featured in the Dunedin Fringe Festival 2004, encouraged Simcock to bring the show to the capital.

Simcock’s Mihi is a rare attempt to merge a traditional Maori speaking structure with an Anglo-Saxon poetic diction. A cocktail of versed elation and anguish, Simcock's Mihi displays all seven stages of Maori welcome; it identifies the speaker, sets the mood, acknowledges the Creator, greets the living, greets the dead, affirms the reason of the gathering and closes with a blessing.

“I am increasingly influenced by Korero and mihi,” Simcock said. “I am working to contribute to the development of Pakeha oratory. Sadly, speechmaking is not strong amongst English speaking New Zealanders.”

Mihi is not just an imaginative piece of theatre; it is also a subtle reflection of New Zealand’s multicultural society. “Kiwis share a strong national identity, but at the same time, they value cultural diversity. My show reflects that. I make use of a Maori speech of welcome, because I believe it is a way of preserving the tradition of speechmaking, “Simcock said.

“Simcock gave a profoundly engaging and affecting performance, a mihi that was also an expression of ecstasy, mitigated in sigh and sorrowful lament, yet all the while full of generous presence,” said Alexander Ritchie, Dunedin Fringe Festival reviewer.

In his poetry, Simcock often mines gritty material, such as sex, death, loss, love, guilt, anger, etc. Mixing an archetypal battle between good and evil, light and darkness, hope and despair, Mihi talks about things that concern us all.


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