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Matariki: Behind the celebration

Tuesday 22nd July 2014

Matariki has arrived in Aotearoa’s night sky, marking the start of the Māori New Year.

Traditionally, it’s been a time for whanau to gather and reflect on the past and the future, and was marked by feasting, planting crops and events to remember the dead.

We spoke to some of the people involved in this year’s celebrations about what Matariki means to them.


Ati Teepa (Tuhoe), an audience engagement facilitator at Te Papa, says Matariki is a great opportunity to celebrate culture.

“It's a time of being Māori and I think, you know, if there's a time of the year that we can showcase Māori – your Māoriness, or your Tuhoe-ness or your Te Papa-ness — whatever 'ness' you've got.”

“Who knows, in the future in could become a public holiday, which would be kind of awesome.”


Maria Walker (Ngati Kahungunu) says when Matariki comes around she has a sense of renewal.

“I inherently feel spurred by things and I feel that this time every year, sort of a renewal, especially as an actor. We are given Maori work around this time of year there's Tawata Productions, Taki Rua productions and Maori films are sometimes about Matariki.”

This Matariki, Maria is directing Taki Rua theatre company’s play Ngunguru I Te Ao I Te Po.


Astronomer Toa Waaka (Ngati Toa Rangatira, Te Ati Awa, Ngati Koata, Ngati Porou, Hauraki, Te Mahurehure) says ancient Maori knowledge, such as understanding science, astronomy and physics became the basis of te reo.

“They understood the processes of nature. Their scientific observation was seen in a much more, I suppose, holistic way. But today we can now look at their knowledge and go: 'Hey actually what they were saying is quite right.”

READ more about Matariki on the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

This content was brought to you with funding support from New Zealand On Air.

Join the discussion »

“This is awesome as it is explained it does show our tipuna had a deep understanding of not just science but of the spiritual unexplained aspects of life which makes more sense to me than the lifeless explanations in science of such things as the big bang theory. This is exciting to me and I would love to learn more because I have heard many of what Toa spoke of on marae but I never was explained it. But to have it explained I feel like I knew it already, although I have only learnt it. I would love to learn more!” — Rawinia

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