Making Matariki a rising star in the Kiwi calendar
For those who complain that New Zealand lacks national events that identify us, there’s an answer staring us in the face at this time of year.
Matariki, a festival that marks the Maori new year, is celebrated when the star cluster Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters, rises in the sky during winter.
Now our national museum wants to elevate the traditional Maori festival into one of our most significant annual events.
A 10-day festival called Matariki Rising, which began on Friday, is the first step in a fouryear plan by Te Papa to increase the profile of the festival.
Other than Waitangi Day and Anzac Day, many of our celebrations are based on traditions from other parts of the world, such as Guy Fawkes night, says festival director Charles Royal.
‘‘We think there’s scope and opportunity to elevate Matariki to be an event of national identity. Something that’s unifying and celebratory of everybody.’’
There is a desire to place events on the national calendar that are more in keeping with this part of the world, he says.
‘‘Matariki is very much about what’s going on in Aotearoa New Zealand, and is indigenous in the sense that it’s growing from this soil.’’
Raising the profile of the event each year will lead, he hopes, to ‘‘some kind of crescendo in 2020 ... where we hope we can get the event to where we believe it will be’’.
It is a time for renewal, and Matariki Rising begins with a ritual evening to celebrate this. The opening event on Friday featured the lighting of a fire and Maori stories of creation.
Royal says it is an event for people to come together. The public were invited to place small tokens of their loved ones in the fire to honour, farewell and acknowledge them and the year just passed, and to offer gratitude and thoughts for the year to come.
Other events at Te Papa include Nga Kai o Matariki: Celebrating Maori Cuisine, Storytelling for Kids, and Kaumatua Kapa Haka.
In addition, Matariki Rising events are taking place at other venues including Pataka Art + Museum, Mahara Gallery in Waikanae, Dowse Art Museum, Expressions Whirinaki Art and Entertainment Centre, Wellington Museum, and Space Place.
Other Matariki events will take place throughout the region during June and July.
For more information visit matarikirising.com.
Charles Royal, right, the director of Te Papa’s Matariki Rising Festival, says this year is the first in the museum’s four-year plan to raise the profile of Matariki. Left, the constellation.