In Aotearoa, there is a celestial event that holds deep cultural significance for Māori people – the appearance of Matariki. For some, you may know it as the Pleiades star cluster, for others it may be Subaru. Matariki marks the beginning of the Māori New Year and is celebrated with great enthusiasm and reverence across the country.
A Celestial Event
Matariki, a cluster of seven stars, or nine depending on where you are, becomes visible in the pre-dawn sky of the Southern Hemisphere during late May or early June each year. Traditionally, its appearance signals the start of the Māori New Year, a time for reflection, remembrance, and celebration. The name “Matariki” itself means “eyes of god” or “little eyes” in the Māori language, and it holds a deep spiritual connection for the Māori people.
Matariki has been celebrated for centuries by Māori, but its significance was largely overshadowed in the past. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest and celebration surrounding Matariki, thanks to the efforts of Māori communities and organisations. Recognising the cultural importance of Matariki has allowed New Zealanders of all backgrounds to come together and embrace the unique heritage of the country.
Reflection and Remembrance
Matariki is a time for reflection and remembrance. It is a time to honor those who have passed away, to acknowledge their contributions, and to connect with ancestral roots. During this period, Māori communities engage in storytelling, performing arts, and various cultural activities to pay homage to their ancestors and to pass down knowledge and traditions to future generations. It is a time to remember the past and its impact on shaping the present.
Renewal and New Beginnings
Matariki also symbolizes new beginnings and the opportunity for personal growth. Just as the stars reappear in the sky, it is a time to set goals, make plans, and embark on a journey of self-improvement. This period encourages Kiwi’s to connect with nature, to reflect on their relationships, and to seek harmony and balance in their lives. Matariki reminds individuals to embrace change and start afresh.
Unity and Community
One of the most beautiful aspects of Matariki is its ability to foster unity and community. The celebration of Matariki brings people together from all walks of life, Māori and non-Māori alike, to participate in festivities, including feasts, music, dance, and artistic expressions. It is a time to appreciate diversity, learn from one another, and strengthen the social fabric of Aotearoa. Matariki serves as a powerful reminder that we are all connected and that our collective strength lies in our shared experiences and understanding.
WHAT CAN I DO TO EMBRACE AND CELEBRATE MATARIKI?
There is an abundance of celebrations, workshops, theatre, dance, art and kai to take part in this Matariki. Here are some ideas:
- Give back! Donate to a charity, plant a tree, buy a mate a coffee
- Reflect on things you may want to let go of to start fresh for Matariki
- Whilst reflecting, prepare for the year ahead. Set goals, write them down!
- Research Matariki – learn, learn, learn! Many iwi in Aotearoa understand and celebrate Matariki differently, so it is a good time to learn about this
- Check out the events listed on the Matariki Festival website www.matarikifestival.org.nz/whats-on/
- Gather your friends and whānau together for a feed, or to watch a movie/sport/theatre. Whatever the activity is doesn’t matter – it is about coming together and connecting
Speaking of gathering together – The PumpHouse is currently celebrating Matariki the best way we know how – with theatre! Chocolate & Carnage Theatre are putting on their enchanting Matariki show, .co.nz this week (11 – 15 July 2023) and it’s free to attend – plus you’ll get to share a free kai with the company afterwards! Find out more here
Mānawatia a Matariki!
(Co-written with Mark Wilson)