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Matariki 2010 – Time to Celebrate

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Information contained in media releases is correct at the time, but may change after publication. Please check the Library News page for latest updates about library services or contact us, ph: 9417923.

19 May 2010

Stargazing will be a popular activity next month (June) during Matariki celebrations in Christchurch.

Known as the Māori New Year, Matariki is one of the most significant celebrations on the Māori calendar and is becoming increasingly well-known and celebrated throughout New Zealand. It is the appearance of the star cluster Pleiades or Seven Sisters in the north-eastern pre-dawn sky in late May-early June – there is no exact date. Celebrations most often begin after the next new moon after Matariki has risen, which is 12 June this year.

Throughout June there will be learning activities and events in Christchurch City Council Libraries/Ngā Kete Wānanaga o Ōtautahi to promote the celebration. These include interactive story telling for children; expert speakers, and craft activities such as star making, putiputi (flower) weaving and rock painting. The theme at the Libraries is kai or more specifically the Māori traditions around food. Waikawa (food baskets) from Canterbury Museum will be displayed at Central Library and libraries staff members have woven their own waikawa, which will be in other libraries. Some will be used for the collection of donations of food for the needy.

Teams of library and Council staff members are also making masks based on Māori traditions surrounding Matariki. The public will be asked to vote on the masks via the Libraries’ website, from 12 June.

Ngā Hau E Wha National Marae, 250 Pages Road, will sparkle with festive lights during this time and everyone will be welcome on four special evenings (5.30pm to 8pm) - Tuesday 8 and 15 June and Thursday 10 and 17 June, to enjoy the celebrations and take part in free activities. These include cultural entertainment, hot soup and the popular Starlab.

The Starlab, from Science Alive, is a mobile inflatable dome with a blacked out interior. It contains a projector which projects stars, planets and the moon onto the ceiling, simulating the night sky. The Matariki star cluster will be projected and discussed with regard to its importance in Māori folklore. The night sky’s role in Māori navigation, weather prediction, changing seasons and keeping track of time, will also be explained. Thirty people can fit in the dome at a time and sessions take half an hour.

During the day from 8 to 18 June, preschool and Year 5 to 8 primary school children will be welcomed onto the marae for pre-arranged visits to learn about Matariki. The programmes for them comprise a variety of learning activities, entertainment and a visit to the Starlab.

  • In ancient times Matariki arrived at the end of the harvest and was therefore a time of plenty: kumara and other crops were stored and birds and fish were abundant. It symbolises the start of a new phase of life.
  • For Ngai Tahu the start of the Māori New Year is earlier than Matariki and begins with the rising of the star Puaka (Rigel in Orion). Puaka can be seen in Te Waipounamu, the South Island, a few days before it appears further north and a few days before Matariki appears. A sighting of Puaka heralds the onset of winter.
  • Traditionally this is a time of subdued activity and restraint following the year’s busiest harvest period known as Kahuru Kai Paeka – the month of food storing.