Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre is the new name for the centre that includes the Opera House, the Municipal Building, the Cushing Foyer and the former Plaza space is “Toitoi”.
The name Toitoi, with its Māori and English components, gives an identity to the complex that conveys a sense of people, place and purpose to audiences and future users on a local, national and international stage.
Toitoi is a Māori word meaning the pinnacle of achievement, and is linked to ideas of excellence, encouragement and motivation. It is also ascribed to the quick movements of fish and birds and, from there, styles of dance and song that mimic them.
There is an extra special link for Hastings and the Ngāti Kahungunu legacy waiata Pōkarekare Ana composed by Paraire Tomoana.
In one of its earliest written versions Pōkarekare Ana was described by ethnologist Elsdon Best as a “toitoi”, a ditty or light-hearted love song that echoed the sound of birds cooing to each other.
It was a type of waiata popular in the 1920s and 30s, particularly in Heretaunga, giving it a unique link to both this place and a time in the district’s history that was significant.
The word ‘toi’ means art and is often used alongside other words in the naming of arts-based organisations. “Toi Toi Toi”, an Italian expression derived from Old German, is an exclamation in the performing arts world (most often in opera) used by performers to wish each other good luck.