Serie (Cherie) Barford

SERIE (CHERIE) BARFORD is a performance poet of Samoan, Celtic, Scandinavian and Algonquin Indian ancestry. She was born in Aotearoa in 1960 and grew up in West Auckland on the Te Atatu (the dawn) Peninsula. The headland opened out to the Waitemata harbour, mangrove swamps, bush-clad hills and farmland. City-sprawl eventually tarsealed roads, installed footpaths and gobbled up orchards and farms. It was a poor part of town, but she didn’t realize that at the time. Serie regards herself,

‘…. as both a Pasifika woman and a syncretic being — one who is forever reconciling opposite tendencies and worldviews resulting from generations of relocation to the antipodes.’

Serie’s mother migrated to Aotearoa from Samoa in the 1950’s. Her grandfather was a child POW on Motuhe (an island in the Waitemata Harbour) during World War I and was an adult POW during World War II on Sommes Island (in Wellington Harbour). He was in hospital at the same time as the Japanese POWS who were hospitalized after the Featherston riots and could communicate with those who spoke the Chinese he’d learnt from plantation workers in Samoa. Serie grew up knowing that the stories she heard in her community were not always valued or told by teachers at school or university and were hard to find on bookshelves in libraries or shops. This has affected her choice of subject matter and writing style. Different stories are told differently. She tells stories that are not usually found in mainstream New Zealand culture.

Serie completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Auckland and also acquired a Diploma in Teaching. She was a secondary school teacher for almost 20 years then managed the Waitakere Adult Literacy Centre for four years. She now works in the field of Adult and Community Education in Waitakere City (West Auckland) and is a member of Te Roopu Matua, the governing body of Waitakere Adult Literacy Inc.

Over the past three years Serie has divided her time between her family in Aotearoa and her partner who’s working in the Loyalty Islands. She has completed a poetry manuscript entitled Tapa Talk which she hopes to publish in the near future and has several pieces in an upcoming anthology of new writings from the South Pacific, to be published in July through the University of Canberra. Her current work in progress is a collection of short stories.

Barford comments: ‘I wrote “Making Siapo” after watching a woman involved in the process of creating siapo sitting with her legs curled to one side. Her posture is what caught my eye and gave me the seed material for the poem. Women usually cross their legs when they sit on the ground and are involved in this activity.’

Poem: Making Siapo

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