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Matariki Cause For New Year Celebrations

21 June 2002

There won't be a countdown to midnight in Aotea Square and the weather might be all wrong, but New Year celebrations are in full swing this week at UNITEC's Puukenga: School of Maori Education.

Matariki, the traditional Maori New Year, is celebrated from late May when the star cluster it is named after is visible in the early morning skies. UNITEC is holding a week of celebrations to mark the end of the month-long celestial event.

Puukenga head Ella Henry says the shortest day of the year, which occurs during the month of Matariki, was of significance to Maori. "Once you've passed that mark, the days become longer, the weather improves and the crops can be planted - the agricultural cycle was always important to indigenous cultures."

She says reasons for marking the event have changed in modern times. "Today, the fact that Matariki is gaining recognition from mainstream society, and that aspects of Maori culture are being accepted by New Zealand, is cause for celebration."

According to Ms Henry, the Maori New Year differs from the annual festivities that take place on 31 December. "It is more of a recognition and observance of the event, rather than the revelry that takes place on the Gregorian calendar New Year."

Activities will take place at Puukenga on UNITEC's Mt Albert campus throughout the week, including a chance to learn waiata, hear readings of poetry and literature in Maori, and observe flax weaving. Traditional and contemporary flax weaving will also be offered for sale.

"UNITEC is the logical place for this to happen, being the only tertiary institution to have a formal partnership agreement with Maori in Te Noho Kotahitanga-The Partnership," says Ms Henry. "Not celebrating Matariki here would be like being in a marriage and only recognising one of the birthdays."

What: Matariki 2002. When: Monday, 24 June, 12.15- 1.30 Wind up your waiata; Wednesday, 26 June, 12.15-1.15 Readings in te reo; and Wednesday, 26 June, 12.15 Finesse with fibre. Where: Puukenga School of Maori Education, UNITEC, Gate 3, Carrington Rd, Mt Albert. --

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