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Maori Language Commission on Polynesian New Year


Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mâori - the Mâori Language Commission - is spearheading a campaign to elevate Matariki, or Aotearoa Pacific New Year, into an iconic national event.

The commission in partnership with Mâori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia is hosting a presentation to celebrate and promote Mâori New Year at the Sky Café and Carter Observatory in Wellington on June 8.

Generally referred to as Pleiades by astronomers, Matariki heralds the start of the Mâori New Year and is important to indigenous people throughout the Pacific as well as other cultures around the world. Matariki is visible to the naked eye in the pre-dawn sky after the full moon from mid to late-June each year.

Mr Horomia says the Matariki initiative is part of a nationwide information programme, 'Kôrero Mâori', which has been launched by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mâori with support from the Government through Te Puni Kôkiri. The commission began to reclaim Matariki as an important focus for Mâori language regeneration in 2001 in partnership with Te Papa Tongarewa and the Ministry of Education.

"This presentation will showcase the traditional concept of Matariki - a time to remember, share, learn and prepare as well as celebrate our unique identity," Mr Horomia says. "The kaupapa has great potential to achieve not only language outcomes but also to become a driving catalyst for all New Zealanders to engage and ultimately celebrate in the culture of this country."

Mâori Language Commissioner Patu Hôhepa says there is a need to work collaboratively to establish a strong foundation for future celebrations. The commission intends to develop relationships and partnerships in order to co-ordinate and share activities with other stakeholders while complementing existing events marking the Mâori New Year.

"The rise of Matariki has gained momentum over the past few years as whânau, hapû and iwi as well as various groups acknowledge the sighting and the sense of new beginnings for the year ahead," Dr Hôhepa says. "In our view, Matariki is much more than a festival-type event that welcomes in the New Year - we believe it is a way of thinking and planning leading up to the sighting of the stars followed by the next new moon."

The function begins at 5.30pm and will include the screening of a special show reel profiling Mâori New Year while the Carter Observatory will be conducting guided tours of the Matariki sky. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Mâori acknowledges the support of the Health Sponsorship Council and Carter Observatory (National Observatory of New Zealand) in this initiative.

This year, the commission will publish an information booklet about Matariki while numerous events including panel discussions, concerts and festivals will be held around the country. For more information on Matariki as well as a calendar of nationwide activities, go to

'Kôrero Mâori' began earlier this year with the 'summer of Mâori language' and is followed by Matariki in June, Mâori Language Week from July 25 to 31, and the 2nd Mâori Language Awards on September 14 - Mâori Language Day.


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