Matariki stars bring our communities together

As Aotearoa gears up to celebrate its first Matariki public holiday on Friday, Te Puni Kōkiri reflects on this significant kaupapa for Māori that it has always supported.

Published: Thursday, 23 June 2022 | Rāpare, 23 Pipiri, 2022

Each year the Ministry of Māori Development helps fund a raft of whānau, hapū, iwi and community events to celebrate the Māori New Year through Matariki or Puanga (the star celebrated by Taranaki and Whanganui iwi).

Te Puni Kōkiri Deputy Secretary Paula Rawiri says it’s exciting Matariki is now a public holiday as it promotes mātauranga Māori and what’s unique to New Zealand.

"The star constellation was an important tohu (sign) for our tūpuna to prepare for harvest and today Matariki or Puanga’s appearance has also become a signal for communities to come together.

"Just in the last three years Te Puni Kōkiri has supported over 130 projects across the motu so whānau and wider communities can experience traditional and contemporary Māori practices associated with the Māori New Year."

"Matariki projects we’ve funded include maara kai (gardening initiatives), arts and performance, story-telling, workshops and mātauranga Māori speakers. They range from week-long community events to smaller Kōhanga Reo celebrations," she says.

One event that’s been running for over a decade is the Rehua Marae Matariki Whānau Day in Christchurch being held this Saturday from 11am -2pm.

Te Puni Kōkiri Pou Whakahaere and Rehua Marae Trustee Paula Rigby says the event started after the Christchurch earthquakes meant the popular Ngā Hau e Whā Marae’s Matariki events could no longer go ahead.

"Matariki is an important point of difference for us as Māori to celebrate and reflect on how we think, feel and act. Our focus for the Rehua Marae event is about providing a fun whānau event that brought families to the marae outside of it being a tangi."

"It’s also about opening the marae to our local community so they can experience it, as many are not Māori. A lot of local people at the first one said they always wondered what happened on the other side of the fence," she said.

The Rehua Marae Whānau Day is always the last Saturday in June and has grown in popularity over the years. It has local kapa haka groups perform, stalls including kai and toi Māori artists do workshops. This year there will be a mobile pounamu studio so people can make a pounamu taonga (greenstone) to take home.

Paula Rigby says that it’s important we remember that different iwi celebrate Matariki differently, like Puanga.

"For our people it was what they could see with their naked eye and is celestial, how many stars they saw depended on where they were located."

"Thinking back, some of our whānau may have been celebrating concepts of Matariki without even knowing it because of food gathering times, being with whānau and remembering people who have passed. I’m a weaver so for me it’s a time for creating and as winter sets in it’s also a good time for wānanga," she said.

In the lead up to Saturday’s event, there is also a performance called Takiwātanga by Jolt Dance company at 6:30pm tomorrow at Rehua Marae. This brings together disabled and able-bodied performers, and a young Māori boy tells his moving story of life with autism.

"We also partner with Christchurch City Libraries and they do storytelling and activities which tie in with our kaupapa. Ngā Hau e Whā Marae puts its lights on each year too. You can see it from the roadside and it offers a beacon of hope that things will get better," says Paula.