New Zealand marks Maori New Year with renewed vigour

First National Holiday celebration throughout the country

Magnificent visual works at Wellington Waterfront (Twitter)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, June 24, 2022

New Zealand is celebrating the first Matariki, commonly known as Maori New Year today (June 24, 2022) with a public holiday and festivities around the country.

In Wellington, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden joined Maori leaders and other dignitaries in celebrations that included Maori prayer, speeches and dedication. The event, held at Te Papa was attended by Ministers, Members of Parliament, diplomats and members of the community.

Salutations to Matariki

She thanked the Matariki Advisory Group, led by Professor Rangi Matamua.

All of your work has been essential in ensuring we are here today and celebrating Matariki the way we are – under the gaze of te Kāhui a Matariki.

Matariki: the beginnings

Ms Ardern said that Matariki has been embraced across the nation since the beginning of Aotearoa and its celebration, and regeneration over the past decades has often been spearheaded by waka voyaging leaders and by Mātauranga Maori and te reo Maori specialists.

Matariki is Maori name for a cluster of stars, called the Pleiades and each tells a story (Unsplash Photo by Andres Drange)

“I pay tribute to all that advocacy and work. I am not the one who on this day is best placed to give you the history of Matariki. But I can tell you how it makes me feel,” she said.

She recalled the day in Rotorua in September 2020 when she announced the government’s intention to embark on properly formalising this day as a public holiday and watching the reaction of the young people present there to hear the news.

“Seeing a broadcaster just this week, integrate into their programming, messages about what Matariki means and what makes it unique. Reading Miriama Kamo’s account of losing her father, and the role Rangi Matamua played in helping to create “a framework to express her grief and channel it towards a date and time when so many would be in concert with her. As she said of Matariki, ‘I won’t be alone.’ And yesterday, visiting Wainuiomata Intermediate to see the tamariki stage a performance on the many stories of Matariki,” she said.

Ms Ardern said that such moments had given her a deep sense of gratitude, at the chance to witness what will be a historic milestone and one that is being so keenly embraced.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking at the Matariki Celebrations in Wellington on June 24, 2022 (Screen Grab)

A chance to reflect on the past

“Matariki provides us with a chance to reflect, to think of those we have lost, and to prepare and share a sense of hope and optimism for the future. I cannot think of a better moment in time for us to take up what Matariki has to offer us, as individuals, but also as a nation. But as we recognise a time in our calendar that is so unique to Maori, some may ask whether this truly can be a day that our nation can unite behind. I would argue, wholeheartedly and absolutely, yes. This is now an official holiday that does not divide us by Maori ancestry or other, rather, it unites us under the stars of Aotearoa. It demonstrates the generosity of the indigenous people of New Zealand, to share knowledge, culture and history,” she said.

Matariki holds enough space for each of us to build our own meaning and traditions. In fact, it feels incredibly symbolic to me, that stars that have been so integral in navigation by our ancestors form now a waypoint on our journey as a nation. A journey that does not begin or end here – but offers us the opportunity to learn and to grow.

The traditions of Matariki

Ms Ardern said that many of us did not grow up with or learn the traditions of Matariki.

“But we now have that chance. A chance to see our own children learn more about this period, a chance to learn from them and a chance to create our own Matariki moments. That is the power of Matariki. And I do not underestimate it.

“Professor Rangi Matamua, when talking about today said ‘I think we have reached the point where we can say we have made a great and meaningful step towards understanding our national identity.’ Professor, you are not alone in this hope and belief. And I absolutely believe that this will be manifest in many different ways in the years to come. Some small, and some large. This month I received a letter from a five-year-old named Amy and her mother, in the correspondence the mother wrote: ‘I wanted to share my gratitude we are able to celebrate Matariki together, with our new holiday. My daughter Amy composed a hand-drawn card for her cousin Claudie. This year, for the first time, Claudie and her Mama are coming to spend Matariki with us. Amy asked me to write these words to her cousin.

Matariki Cultural experience in Auckland CBD (Auckland Council Photo)

‘Claudie you may not be my sister, but I am going to see you soon at Matariki. We have no Maori ancestry but love our nation’s cultural heritage. We are so happy Matariki is being acknowledged appropriately as a special time for our families, and that a national holiday allows us to come together.’ And so, I share this same simple aspiration.

“That this moment in time, this waypoint in our journey offers us the chance to come together as families, but also as a nation. Under the stars of a bright, optimistic, and hopeful Matariki.

A space where there is room for all of us,” Ms Ardern said.

Manawatu a Matariki!

Daily celebrations in Auckland CBD from June 25 to July 16, 2022 (Auckland Council Photo)

About Matariki

Matariki is te reo Maori name for a cluster of stars, called the Pleiades, which rise in midwinter.

For many iwi, it heralds the start of the Maori New Year.

Today (June 24, 2022) is the first time that Matariki has been marked as a public holiday in New Zealand and events are taking place throughout the country to mark Matariki

The rise of Matariki has traditionally been linked with the environment and its key elements are remembrance, celebrating and planning for the year ahead

For some iwi, there are seven stars in the Matariki cluster while for others there are nine, other iwi are unable to see Matariki from their rohe and mark the New Year with a star name Puanga

Leading the prayer, Maori Leader Sir Pou Temara said, “Today is a moment in time. This is a moment that future generations will look upon and say this is when we came of age. Matariki is the start of the Maori New Year Matariki – a time for celebration, remembrance, growth and renewal and events to acknowledge this has been organised across the country,” he said.
Matariki Tohu mate, rātou ki a rātou
Matariki Tohu ora, tātou ki a tātou
Tīhei Matariki
Matariki – remembering those who have passed
Matariki – celebrating the present and future

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