Hamilton awaits Matariki with open arms


Maanawatia a Matariki is a free-entry, family-friendly event planned on Saturday 15 July, 2023 from 4pm (Photo Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, June 29, 2023

Matariki celebrations are in full swing at Hamilton’s top visitor destinations, Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton Zoo at Te Kaaroro Nature Precinct, and Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato.

Visitors will be entertained at all three venues with free events and activities, ranging from movie screenings to a star-themed scavenger hunt.

Hamilton City Council’s Unit Director Visitor Destinations Lee-Ann Jordan said the events plan complements the vibrant annual offering delivered by the ‘Matariki Ki Waikato festival’ since 2009, and the Maanawatia a Matariki event being held at Hamilton Lake Domain.

“It is wonderful to see our city come alive during the Matariki period as people engage with the significance of this special time of year. Hamiltonians are spoilt for choice, whether they want to explore nature at the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, learn more about New Zealand’s only traditional Māori productive garden, or enjoy the personal storytelling in ‘Taonga Talking’ at the Museum.”

Bookings are also open now for free guided tours of Hamilton Gardens’ Te Parapara Garden, a joint project between Nga Mana Toopu and Hamilton City Council. The garden showcases traditional Māori practices, materials and ceremonies for producing and storing food, drawn from the knowledge of local Māori which has been passed down through generations.

Te Parapara Garden tour at Hamilton Garden (Photo Supplied)

About Maanawatia a Matariki

Maanawatia a Matariki is a free-entry, family-friendly event planned on Saturday 15 July, 2023 from 4pm, where Hamiltonians can wrap up warm, grab their whanau and friends, and head to Hamilton Lake to celebrate Matariki together as a community.

Now in its second year, ‘Maanawatia a Matariki’ celebrates our newest public holiday Matariki, which recognises the Matariki star cluster, a symbol of the Māori New Year.

The event is organised in partnership between Hamilton City Council and ‘Matariki ki Waikato’, a local Māori-led organisation hosting a festival of events from 16 June to 26 July 2023 across the rohe. The event will have a festival vibe, featuring a combination of contemporary bands and traditional waiata and haka performances. There will be a range of free activities for tamariki (children) that include light displays, star-making and taa moko (face painting).

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said it was agreed to make it an annual event after the success of the first one last year, which coincided with the first Matariki public holiday.

“With generous help from our partners and sponsors, we decided it was too good not to keep it going,” said Mayor Southgate.

This year’s event will include the Matariki ki Waikato market, which boasts a range of Māori-made goods, as well as taraka kai (food trucks) offering local and international dishes for sale.

“We want to make this event as affordable as possible, so people are also welcome bring their own picnic dinner along,” said Mayor Southgate.

“Matariki is a time for new beginnings, to reflect on the past while looking ahead to the future. It is also a time for all kiwis to come together and be thankful for what we have. What a perfect concept, and what better excuse do you need to come along.”

Due to the variability of the star cluster, the Matariki public holiday falls on a different day each year. “We are holding the event on a Saturday, the day after the public holiday, to give more Hamiltonians a chance to come along and enjoy the festivities,” said Mayor Southgate.

About Matariki

Matariki is commonly known as the Māori New Year and is marked by the rising of the cluster of stars named Pleiades or Matariki according to Māori.

The Matariki constellation signifies the start of the Māori New Year. The names of the nine stars are: Matariki, Tupuārangi, Waipuna-ā-Rangi, Waitī, Tupuānuku, Ururangi, Waitā, Pōhutukawa and Hiwa-i-te-Rangi. There are different Matariki stories to learn, and some regions celebrate seven stars only.

There are many significant Matariki stories, locally she is known as the daughter of Papatuuaanuku (earth mother) and Ranginui (sky father). According to Māori mythology, after the children separated their parents Papatuuaanuku and Ranginui. Tāwhirimaatea (God of the winds) became so angry he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens. This was the creation of Matariki.

Matariki was celebrated at the end of the summer harvest season, in the last days of May to early June, when Matariki appears in the tail of the Milky Way. The storehouses were filled with food, and the land was made ready for the next seasons planting. This was a time to foster unity and the meaning of whaanau (family). Whaanau took the opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan for the future: through whakapapa, songs, games, carving, weaving and historical stories.

Many cultures acknowledge Matariki but call it by other names: For example Ancient Greek Pleiades, Japanese Subaru, and Hawaiians Makali’i. Similar to Māori, these cultures also believe they have a spiritual relationship with the universe.

The schedule of events runs across the three venues until Sunday, July 16, 2023. Visit matarikiwaikato.nz to view all of the Matariki Ki Waikato festival activities happening in the region.

For last year’s celebrations in Hamilton Watch the video here.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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