John Cowpland / Stuff
Te Rangi Huata, who has organized Ngāti Kahungunu’s festivals and events since 2000, at Ātea a Rangi, Hawke’s Bay’s star compass at Waitangi Park.
Matariki isn’t something Te Rangi Huata grew up with, rather it’s something he’s learned more about having organised Ngāti Kahungunu celebrations for the past two decades.
He’s proud to see the next generation readying to celebrate it as a national holiday for the first time.
Back in 2000, he organized the first Ngāti Kahungunu Matariki event beneath the Hastings clock tower. He had a budget of $ 100.
“Our sausage sizzle ran out in 10 minutes. We thought’s we’d maybe get 50 people, but more than 100 showed up. Twenty-one years later, many of those people have been every year since and some are now bringing their grand children. ”
* New Matariki tohu a’metaphor as a nation coming together’, says designer
* Appearance of Matariki and Puanga marks start of Māori New Year
* Aotearoa’s first Matariki public holiday to fall on June 24, 2022 –get ready to wrap up work on a Thursday
* Changeable Matariki public holiday’fantastic’, a’great step’ forward
* How children are making Matariki normal for Pākehā
Matariki wasn’t something Huata’s generation grew up celebrating, so it was a new concept even for some Māori.
He considers himself an “intermediary”, breathing life into a tradition so it makes sense for modern life.
Educator Hauiti Gardiner shows you how to find the Matariki star cluster during the Māori New Year, which falls in the month of Pipiri (June–July).
The elements he has chosen to highlight are the opportunities for people to come together and to give thanks for the harvest. It is also a chance to remember those who have died, with Huata inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead festivals.
Having experienced New Year celebrations in other countries like Laos, Vietnam, and India, he said fireworks were a great medium for storytelling and were the “exclamation mark of the festival”.
Each color has a meaning – blue willows represent the tears of Ranginui (sky father) while greens and reds represent Papatūānuku (Earth mother) and purple is considered to be healing.
Huata said Matariki was a chance to “share the best of us” and “create fun” from Māori traditions, incorporating singing, dancing, and music into the festivals. “We are the only ones in the world who do this.”
The festival has grown over the years and now draws thousands to events across the entire rohe from Wairoa to Wairarapa.
He was proud to see more families “embracing their own traditions” and making Matariki their own. “It’s like Christmas dinner. You could talk to 20 different New Zealanders and they’d all do it differently.”
About 10 years ago, they noticed many families were returning to to celebrate Matariki with their whānau, he said.
Huata was a big supporter of the campaign to make Matariki a public holiday.
“Now the whole country is joining in. I think it’s a great thing for New Zealand. It was a brave decision by our government, but I think New Zealanders will come to appreciate it more.”
He said many pākehā and tauiwi had been onboard since day one, especially Hawke’s Bay’s growers and producers, but the challenge came with some not knowing if it was appropriate for them to join in celebrations. ”He said.
Huata was excited about this year’s celebrations, saying he was grateful to see people embracing the journey.[This is the] best thing our generation can give. We never had that opportunity. ”
The event held at Ātea a Rangi, Hawke’s Bay’s traditional celestial star compass at Waitangi Park, was always a special highlight.
Here visitors enter through Te Whanau Marama Waharoa (Family of Light gateway) where they can learn more about the Matariki star cluster and follow a trail of luminous stones, a traditional practise of Ngāti Pahauwera to guide them at night following the reflective glow of the opunga stone in moonlight.
The trail leads to light displays that follow the estuary which filters nutrients for plants, spawning marine life and wading birds.