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Matariki now celebrated widely in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Dorothy with news from Maori Television - 19/06/09

Read through the entries in NZine's What's On for June and July and you will find a number of items describing celebrations of Matariki.

Matariki, or Maori New Year celebrations, were once popular, but stopped in the 1940s. In 2000 they were revived. Only a few people took part at first, but in just a few years thousands were honouring the ‘New Zealand Thanksgiving'.

In 2008 Maori Television published the following material about Matariki.

What is Matariki?
Matariki is the Maori name for the group of stars also known as the Pleiades star cluster or The Seven Sisters; and what is referred to as the traditional Maori New Year.

When is the Maori New Year?
The Maori new year is marked by the rise of Matariki and the sighting of the next new moon. The pre-dawn rise of Matariki can be seen in the last few days of May every year and the new year is marked at the sighting of the next new moon which occurs during June.

What does Matariki mean?
Matariki has two meanings, both referring to a tiny constellation of stars; Mata Riki (Tiny Eyes) and Mata Ariki (Eyes of God).

Why is Matariki important?
Traditionally, depending on the visibility of Matariki, the coming season's crop was thought to be determined. The brighter the stars indicated the warmer the season would be and thus a more productive crop. It was also seen as an important time for family to gather and reflect on the past and the future.

Why do we celebrate Matariki today?
Today Matariki means celebrating the unique place in which we live and giving respect to the land we live on.

How is Matariki celebrated?
Matariki is celebrated with education, remembrance and the planting of new trees and crops signalling new beginnings. Matariki was the optimum time for new harvests, and ceremonial offerings to the land-based gods Rongo, Uenuku and Whiro to ensure good crops for the coming year. It was also seen as a perfect time to learn about the land we live on and to remember whakapapa (ancestry) who have passed from this world to the next and the legacy they left behind.

How long do celebrations last?
Traditionally celebrations lasted up to 3 days after the new moon had risen following Matariki becoming visible.

Who celebrates Matariki?
Anyone who wishes to participate.


Some of this country's best-loved musicians have joined forces with international chef Peter Gordon to celebrate Matariki – the Maori New Year - with a spectacular concert and feast.

The event they created, held at Turangawaewae Marae with the blessing of Kingi Tuheitia, has been captured in a two-part series that marks this special time of year, in MATARIKI AHUNGA NUI, and MATARIKI HUNGA NUI, and will screen on Maori Television on June 28 and July 5 at 8.00 PM.

Drawing around 700 guests, and billed as the biggest gourmet hangi in Aotearoa, the event features a stellar line up of musicians, including Dave Dobbyn, Boh Runga, Nesian Mystic, Moana Maniapoto and the Tribe, Tama Waipara, Maisey Rika, Whirimako Black and Pania Papa, with the talented Matai Smith on hosting duties.

Meanwhile, the marae kitchen – already renowned for its ability to put on a great spread for the multitudes – is in the hands of ex-pat chef Peter Gordon, his task: to spice up the traditional hangi fare with contemporary gourmet flavours.

"The focus has been to put on a really good show, and to raise up the profile of Matariki as an event," says Hinewehi Mohi, whose involvement in the event has been three-fold. Mohi performs, produces the programme, and represents the event's official charity – the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre.

"It has come together really well, and I was really overwhelmed by people's aroha and support."

The making of episode one has been guided by the proverb Matariki ahunga nui - provider of plentiful food, and shows the gourmet hangi at preparation stage, as Gordon gets to work with the marae kaimahi, or workers.

The menu - one of the true stars of the event - features hangi staples such as pork, mutton and chicken, but with new exotic twists, from marinades of Thai spices, kawakawa and coconut, to stuffings of apple, walnut and sage.

Also in part one: scenes of the traditional powhiri at Turangawaewae, and interviews with those involved in the event, who explain why they wanted to give their time. Perfomers also give their thoughts on the meaning and purpose of Matariki, traditionally a time for feasting, family, remembering and celebrating.

Part two is inspired by the words Matariki hunga nui – Matariki has many admirers, in which video ‘postcards' are sent in from friends and supporters around the world, in places such as London, New York and Japan. The hangi is pulled up and served, and performances continue against a backdrop designed by artist Tracey Tawhiao, building to a grand finale in which Kingi Tuheitia makes his way to a stage.

A time to celebrate the year that has gone, and the new one ahead. Tune in to Maori Television for MATARIKI AHUNGA NUI and MATARIKI HUNGA NUI, on June 28 and July 5 at 8.00 pm.