This story was originally published in June 2022, but we're sharing again as the sentiments shared still stand.
Kua haehae ngā hihi o Matariki. The bright rays of Matariki have spread.
Friday June 24 will mark Aotearoa’s first official holiday heralding Matariki, the Māori new year, where the star cluster rises and makes its appearance in our night sky. It is a time to spend with whānau and friends, to reflect on the year previous, honour ancestors and farewell those who have passed - and look ahead to what lies ahead.
The first official holiday also reflects changes within Aotearoa itself: like the increase in everyday usage of te reo Māori, the appreciation and awareness of Matariki and the stories behind it are exciting to witness. There is also, however, some concern around the potential commercialisation of the holiday taking away from its core values and meaning - that is, aroha (love and respect), whakamaumaharatanga (remembrance), and kotahitanga (unity).
Ahead of Matariki celebrations, we asked an ensemble of Māori creatives to share what it means to them.
Dr Pauline Harris (Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Rakaipaka and Ngāti Kahungunu), senior lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, part of the Matariki Advisory Group and chairperson of the Society of Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions
From when I was very young I was fascinated with this star cluster and had a picture of it hanging up in my room. It is for me, the most beautiful cluster I have ever seen. I had no idea that one day it would play such an important part in my life. I’ve been involved with Matariki for a long time and I’ve seen how it's grown in communities and now, we will celebrate together as a nation. Matariki has taken me into communities all across Aotearoa, sharing knowledge of the stars, a journey that would see me working with Māori astronomy experts and Mātauranga Māori experts from all over Aotearoa.
Tim Melville (Te Arawa, Ngati Whakaue, Te Atiawa), gallerist and owner and director of Tim Melville Gallery
The acknowledgement of Matariki with a public holiday makes me feel that a Māori worldview and aspects of traditional Māori knowledge are gaining broader acceptance.
In a world where climate change has become an existential threat, could it be that we’re seeing a re-evaluation of indigenous concepts around custodianship (rather than ownership) of whenua?
I flew on an Air New Zealand waka rererangi last week and the words from their safety video are still ringing in in my ears: “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we only borrow it from our children.”
Putting aside the irony that a company with enormous carbon emissions doesn’t necessarily practise what it preaches (!), I absolutely loved seeing and feeling the Māori kaupapa in their beautifully filmed video.
Matariki for me is a reminder that the world has turned again, another cycle is beginning, and that we are individually and collectively responsible for the wellbeing of our whenua and people.
Damaris Coulter (Ngāti Kahu), founder of The Realness
Matariki for me is a time to reflect, to think about our loved ones and the special tāngata who have enriched our lives, who have passed since the last rising. This Matariki, my friend Todd Williams who passed last year and my uncle Peter who passed in May are at the forefront of my mind, and their beautiful memory will be part of my whānau’s hautapu ceremony.
Last year we cooked a selection of different kai in our crock pot (different kai to honour different stars) and then got up super early with our pēpi. We viewed Matariki and shared what we were grateful for and what we hoped for the coming year. We said a karakia and the names of our passed whānau, and then we released our kai steam to Matariki and the atua, and had a kai ourselves. I think this year's hautapu ceremony will be similar but with some extra special kai added, for Todd and Uncle Peter and any mates they have made.
I see Matariki as an opportunity for the people of Aotearoa to learn, listen and reflect. It’s also an opportunity for non-Māori to connect with their own history, culture and whakapapa before Aotearoa, as well as learn about Māori history, Māori culture, Māori tikanga and the land they live on. I think Matariki is a powerful force that wants us to achieve greatness.
This Friday I will also be attending the Te Toki Voyaging Trust celebration at Kirikiriroa marae - my partner captains this waka and this is his crew.
Delilah Pārore Southon (Te Roroa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kurauia, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Pukenga), writer
I believe it’s important to spend Matariki with your grandparents, your elders, or the special storytellers in your life. It’s a time for over-exaggerated storytelling, cackling, cheugy laughs, yarning, sharing and most importantly — embracing where you’re from and the whenua you whākapapa to. For me, time spent with whānau is time spent in the mystic walls of your heart. It’s the time spent getting to know and sitting in these mystic walls within your heart, where the path ahead can be illuminated and encouraged.
Matariki can be a good time to reflect in these magic spaces to set some personal-tikanga boundaries on how you’re going to move forth in the next rotation. Matariki offers a time to daydream, stargaze and pause. A time for that wairua to fully dazzle. Inā kei te mohio koe ko wai koe anga mai koe i hea, kei te mohio koe kei te anga atu ki hea. To know where you’re from, is to know where you’re going.
Super excited to this year to be spending time in the Basement Theatre wānanga, connecting with six other Māori artists and artistic rangatira. And, I'll definitely be making time to be on a West Coast beach, around 4:20pm with some OG tunes in my taringas, watching theatre in my mind.
Basement Theatre will host Electric Taniwha on June 23 to celebrate the Matariki period and the closing of the wānanga, with a night of entertainment and hāngi.
Kaan Hiini (Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa), design director at Curative and co-chair of Auckland Pride
This year has been so full-on for us all, so as we welcome Matariki as a national holiday, we're getting a much-needed breather. Which I think has always been the purpose of Matatriki. The beauty of Matariki being embraced across Aotearoa is that the core elements of the celebration are accessible to tangata whenua and tangata tiriti alike. As we hit the depths of winter, amidst the cold and darkness, we need to be reminded that the warmth and life of summer will return. Find some joy, magic and light. Matariki provides us with that. The celebrations awhi us in the dark. Encourage us to gather together with our nearest and dearest, get cosy, get nourished, rest, refresh, reflect and plan for the year ahead. And of course to remember and celebrate those who have departed from us this past year - it's such a beautifully poetic period, as we reconnect, send our loved ones on and recharge.
For me this year, that's looking like a couple of things - refilling my mauri cup through some beautiful exhibitions marking and exploring this momentous occasion (Whānau Mārama at Commercial Bay, Heavenly Bodies at Season, twisting, turning, winding at Objectspace, Matariki RIng of Fire at Te Uru), reading books tucked up warm at home to learn more about our histories, and coming together with friends and whānau for hākari, enjoying food, sharing dishes important to us and creating space to reconnect in small intimate groups after a year of social distance — chatting, laughing and preparing for the year ahead. What a beautiful gift for us all.
Roimata Taimana (Te Kawarau ā Maki, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Huarere, Ngāti Hei), artist, musician, rangatahi/youth worker, Mataora (change agent)
Although my whanau didn’t celebrate Matariki growing up, this new holiday feels to me like a celebration of te ao Māori by everyone in Aotearoa which is a beautiful feeling. Sometimes things just feel very right – I have an exhibition at Driving Creek Gallery in Coromandel Town during Matariki, and the pictorial signature I use is made up of a star cluster which looks like the stars of Matariki. I’m also working on a song for Matariki and have started including more te reo in my songwriting as my confidence as a learner grows.
Eridani Hakiri-Baker, (Kāi Tahu) yoga teacher, AUT kaiārahi māori, psychotherapy student
Ko Aoraki te mauka, Ko Waitaki te awa, Ko Uenuku te whare tipuna, Ko Kāi Tahu te iwi, Ko Eridani toku ikoa.
I am named after a star in a constellation that forms a celestial river, it matches up with the Yanaguana, a river in San Antonio, Texas. The two rivers meet to make a bridge. The Coahuiltecan people who are native to that land know this bridge is used by ancestors to communicate knowledge.
In Māori astrology the star I am named after is called Mārere-o-tonga, he is the son of Rangi-pōtiki and Papa-tū-a-nuku. Rongo, Tū, Tangaroa, Tāne, Tāwhirimātea, and all others are his brothers. Mārere-o-tonga was born twin with Takataka-pūtea. I am the pōtiki in my family.
For me, Matariki is about connection and how I am in relation. He kākano āhau. Matariki is about sharing stories, honouring my ancestors, and doing what I can to uplift Indigenous knowledge. It is my hope that the instalment of Matariki as a public holiday brings Aotearoa a little closer towards decolonisation. For me, that is what everything is about.
Maisey Rika (Ngāti Awa, Tūhoe, Te Arawa, Te Whānau-a-Apanui), musician and artist who will perform as part of the Matariki livestream event hosted by TikTok and TVNZ
Matariki is short for ‘Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea’ (The Eyes of Tāwhirimātea)
Tāwhirimātea is the God of the Storm - I feel like that’s been the theme of the world for the past two years, and now… 'ka pō ka ao ka awatea' - we’re coming out the other end into a new horizon!
For me, Matariki is a time to reflect and plan, to mourn and celebrate, to unite and share in a meal while storytelling with music and arts.
‘Connection’ is what Matariki means to me.
On June 24 Aotearoa will acknowledge Matariki as an official holiday - Ka ngangaro!