Tusiata Avia is a poet, performer and children’s book writer. Of Samoan descent, Avia was born and raised in Christchurch. Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals and her first collection of poetry was published in 2004. Avia’s work is rich in Pacific themes and her books for children have been published in Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands Maori, Nuiean, Tokelauan and English. Avia was awarded the 2005 Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writers’ Residency at the University of Hawai’i, and was shortlisted for the 2006 Prize in Modern Letters.
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.
Avia is currently publishing a series of books for children. The first two, Mele and the Fofo (2002) and The Song (2002), have been published in Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islands Maori, Nuiean and Tokelauan and English.
Avia describes her work as being about, among other things, Pacific themes. In all of her work Avia explores the boundaries between custom and contemporary life, between place and self. Hers is a dynamic new voice.
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.
Avia was the 2013 recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award worth $5,000.
writers in schools information
Avia is available to visit with school children of all ages as part of the Writers in Schools programme. She is prepared to discuss any topic, with classes of any size. She is also happy to run workshops, by prior arrangment.
- Tusiata Avia performs 'My Dog'
- Tusiata Avia performs 'Things to do after Tafai gata'
- Tusiata Avia performs 'Wild Dogs under my Skirt'
- Interview in The Listener about Bloodclot
- Interview on The Big Idea about Bloodclot
- Interview with Tusiata Avia on Tangata Pasifika, celebrating the launch of Bloodclot.
- Victoria University Profile of Tusiata Avia