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Avia, Tusiata


Tusiata Avia is a poet, performer and children’s book writer. Her collections of poetry include Wild Dogs Under My Skirt and Bloodclot. Her books for children include Mele and the Fofo and The Song. Known for her dynamic performance style she has also written and performed a one-woman poetry show, also called Wild Dogs Under My Skirt. The show toured on and off from 2002-2008 in places as diverse as Moscow, Jerusalem and Vienna, as well as destinations closer to home. Tusiata has held a number of residencies including the Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Fellowship at University of Hawai’i and the Ursula Bethel Writer in Residence at University of Canterbury. She was the 2013 recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award.


Avia, Donna Tusiata (1966-) is a poet, a performer, and children’s book writer. Avia is of Samoan descent, and her name, Tusiata, means both painter and artist.

Avia was born and raised in Christchurch. She attended Canterbury University, before moving to Auckland and then overseas. From 1990 until 2001 Avia travelled and taught. She spent time in Samoa, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Africa before returning to New Zealand in 2001. In 2002 she completed the MA Creative Writing Programme at the International Institute of Modern Letters.

Tusiata Avia’s poetry has appeared in various literary journals including Turbine, Sport, and Takahe. Her radio drama You Say Hawaii was broadcast in 2002. She also works as a performance poet. Her solo show Wild Dogs Under My Skirt premiered at the 2002 Dunedin Fringe Festival.

In 2002, Avia's books for children, Mele and the Fofo and The Song, were published.

Wild Dogs Under My Skirt (2004), Tusiata Avia's first collection of poetry, draws on two different cultures and charts the sometimes painful points of their intersection. These poems are both confrontational and entertaining, raw and lyrical, they occupy legend and history - yet break through into an urban landscape that is just as arresting and richly patterned. Avia's poetry is alive with the energy and rhythm of performance poetry and an oral tradition, but it also stakes out a unique physical life on the page, reshaping our language and our understanding of New Zealand culture.

'Tusiata's poetry is quite revolutionary in the sense that, not only does it define the face of Pacific literature in New Zealand, but it redefines the face of New Zealand literature itself.' - Sia Figiel

Tusiata Avia was an artist-in-residence at the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies in Christchurch in 2005.

She was also awarded the 2005 Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writers’ Residency at the University of Hawai’i. Avia used the residency to work on a collection of poetry and a new theatre work.

Tusiata Avia was shortlisted for the 2006 Prize in Modern Letters.

Avia published a new collection, Bloodclot (Victoria University Press), in 2009. She was the Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury in 2010.

Tusiata Avia is regularly published in international literary journals and invited to appear at writers festivals around the globe. Recent highlights include performances in New York and at Poetry Parnassus, which brought one poet from each Olympic country to London as part of the Cultural Olympiad in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games. She was the 2013 recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award.

Avia specialises in performing for, speaking to and inspiring groups of young people. She has taught, written and performed poetry since 2003 for youth organisations that include Rising Voices Poetry Slam Movement, Fresh Horizons (Tautai Arts Trust), Te Papa's refugee youth project, youth justice facilities, and for schools across the country and overseas.

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Phone 0064 4 801 5546
Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro
Wellington 6011, New Zealand