Matariki spectacular planned for Wellington region

A ten-day festival, Matariki Rising, will open in Wellington next month to celebrate the Māori New Year, with festivities preceded by an education programme.

The festival is a collaborative effort of Wellington cultural organisations and events are scheduled for a collection of public places including Te Papa, The Dowse Art Museum, Pātaka Art and Museum in Porirua, and Mahara Gallery in Waikanae.

Matariki is celebrated when the star cluster known as Matariki and Pleiades rises in the sky during winter. It marks the end of the calendar year and signals the beginning of the new year according to the Maramataka, or the traditional Māori lunar calendar.

Creative director of Matariki Rising, Te Papa’s Dr Charles Royal, says that the overall theme of Matariki festivals both historically and today is renewal.

“Matariki marks the passing of the old year and the beginning of the New Year, according to the Māori lunar calendar.

“It’s a celebration that is unique to New Zealand and provides an opportunity to come together, to acknowledge who we are, to express love for these islands that we call our home and foster quality relationships between each other and the natural world.”

Kaumatua Kapa Haka will perform at the closing ceremony. Image: Kate Whitley, Te Papa

The festival will offer a range of public events around three themes: whānau and rēhia (entertainment); whānau and kai (food); and whānau and ako (learning).

“This year’s programme includes storytelling workshops for different age groups, kai demonstrations, and performances. These events cover the themes of entertainment, food and learning which encapsulate the spirit of Matariki,” Dr Royal says.

 The long term vision is to establish Matariki festivals as New Zealand’s own internationally recognised indigenous celebration, he says.

“Matariki has the potential to be elevated to an event of national identity comparable to the likes of Chinese New Year or Holi in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. These events are about celebrating who we are and where we are, and reconnecting us with each other and with nature.”

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