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Matariki, The Maori New Year At Te Papa

18 May 2001



Te Papa is getting ready to celebrate Matariki, the traditional Mäori New Year, with five weeks of free shows, lectures, and activities beginning on Saturday 26 May.

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mäori, the Mäori Language Commission, is focusing on Matariki as a navigation point for its promotion of the language and culture. Te Tähuhu ö te Mätauranga, The Ministry of Education, sees Matariki as an ideal opportunity to present and profile it's Mäori education strategy 'Whakaaro Mätauranga - think learning'. Together, these organisations are raising the profile of New Zealand's indigenous New Year, Matariki.

In the last week of May, the star cluster Matariki, or Pleiades, will begin to become visible in our early morning skies. From then, stargazers will be able to see it until the end of June. The traditional Mäori New Year begins with the first new moon after the first appearance of Matariki in the early morning sky. The bright star Puanga - Rigel - also emerges at about the same time, and for some iwi it is the appearance of Puanga that is celebrated.

During the weeks of Matariki, all activities are tapu, and take on great spiritual importance. Crops are planted and Rongo-ma-tane, the god of cultivated food, is appeased for a productive return. It is a good time to gather pikopiko (fern fronds) and a host of native berries. It is also the right time to cast fishing nets and lines into the depths of Tangaroa - god of the sea - to make the most of bountiful supplies of migrating fish.

Noting the appearance of Matariki in the sky is vital. If the stars in the cluster are clear and bright, it is thought that the year ahead will be warm and productive. If they appear hazy and shimmering, a cold winter is in store, and all activities during the period of Matariki must take this into account.

Te Papa has adopted Matariki as an annual signature event, and as iwi all around the country mark this period with song, dance, feasting, and ceremony, Te Papa will host an exciting line-up of performers including bands, dance troupes, storytellers, and kapa haka groups.

Acts include Te Roopu Manaia o Te Arawa, winners of the Super 12 Kapa Haka National Competition 2000, and AARIA, fresh from the TV3 series Manu Tioriori, the Mäori language version of Popstars.

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mäori sees Matariki as an opportunity to promote the Mäori language by establishing Matariki as a domain for learning and using Te Reo Mäori. A curriculum for Mäori immersion schooling is being developed with the goal of establishing it in mainstream schools for future celebrations.

As well as lending support to Te Papa's events programme, Te Taura Whiri will host a national Mäori language conference at Te Papa on 21-22 June. 'Uia Ngä Whetü', the conference theme, acknowledges the navigational importance of the Matariki stars in the South Pacific. The aim of the conference is to gather together national Mäori language interest groups to explore the best path ahead for the regeneration of the Mäori Language. The conference will also showcase confident young Mäori language speakers with a debate on Te Papa's Marae on 21 June.

Te Tähuhu ö te Mätauranga agreed to support Te Papa's Matariki vision because it sees the event as an ideal opportunity to present and profile its Mäori education strategy 'Whakaaro Mätauranga - think learning', due for launch in early June. The key focus of this three-year strategy is to improve educational outcomes for Mäori. The themes of growth, development, and renewal that surround Matariki fit perfectly with the strategy's vision.

Te Tähuhu o te Mätauranga believes that in the future, Te Papa's commitment to establish Matariki as a signature event will provide many educational opportunities for Mäori to celebrate their cultural uniqueness and, as a consequence, opportunities for the nation to celebrate its unique place in the world.

For Te Papa, Matariki, as an annual event, will be a time for celebrating the indigenous calendar of Aotearoa, attracting performers and visitors from all around New Zealand. Te Papa invites everyone to join in with the free festivities.

Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mäori encourages everyone to take this opportunity to participate in Mäori culture and language by celebrating Matariki as a unique expression of our international identity.


Vicki Connor Senior Media & Communications Co-ordinator, Te Papa 04 381 7083, 029 601 018

Paul Brewer General Manager, Communications & Marketing, Te Papa 04 381 7023, 021 532 920

Piripi Moore Kaipatupäoho, (Marketing Executive), Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mäori 04 471 0244, 025 248 0811

Jo Watt Communications Advisor, The Ministry of Education 04 463 8770, 025 221 3665

Vicki Connor Senior Media & Communications Co-ordinator Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa PO Box 467, Wellington 1, New Zealand phone (64 4) 381 7083 mobile 029 601 018 fax (64 4) 381 7080 email

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