Students Illuminate Matariki

Students Illuminate Matariki

24 June 2024

An enlightening assembly was held by a group of students at St Paul’s Collegiate School to shed light on Matariki, the Maaori New Year. The students spoke to other students about the traditions, stories, and values associated with Matariki.

Sarita Williams (Year 13) explained, “Matariki is known around the world by different names. In English, it’s the ‘Pleiades’ or the Seven Sisters; the Hawaiian name is ‘Makalii’ or eyes of royalty; and in Japan, it’s ‘Subaru’. The location of the taataii whetuu (cluster of stars) depends on the location of the maarama, the raa, and other whetuu. During June, the cluster is seen between 5.30 and 6.30 am from the point that the sun rises. There are about 500 whetuu in the cluster but only seven are visible with the naked eye.

Austen Plimmer asked us to think about how we would like to celebrate Matariki. He said, “To most New Zealanders, particularly those that are not of Maaori descent, Matariki is simply an opportunity to sing ‘waitii – waitaa’ in school, and more recently, to have the day off school or work.

“There is a misconception among New Zealanders who are not of Maaori descent, or who don’t celebrate Matariki, that they are expected to understand and celebrate Matariki in the same way Maaori do. This is not true.

“Take Christmas, for instance. Different countries, cultures, and even individual households have their own ways and traditions to celebrate it. We are free from an expectation to always have a roast turkey for lunch or always sing Christmas Carols in the evening.

“This variety of traditions is due to both the amount of time Christmas has had to develop and the widespread acceptance of it into different cultures around the world. There is no ‘one way’ to celebrate Christmas. Matariki is the same.

“Matariki is part of New Zealand culture because it is important to a significant portion of the population. If nothing else, endeavouring to learn a new thing each year or looking at it as more than just an annual public holiday is a sign of respect. Austen gives some good examples when he says,

“If you want to go and make Christmas-like cookies in the shape of Matariki stars — go for it. If you want to sit around a fire, spinning yarns with friends — go for it. If you want to sit outside and watch the stars, walk up the Hakarimatas at 4 am or use Matariki as an opportunity to reflect or revisit those New Year’s resolutions — go for it.

“Among other things, Matariki is typically a time to honour the dead, gather with family and friends, sing and dance, but put your own spin on it and have some fun. Get amongst it. Get involved."

Siobhan Yorston (Year 12) explained to us about each whetuu in the cluster:

  • Matariki is the name of the cluster and the central star. It is associated with health and well-being.
  • Poohutakawa is connected to those who have passed away, reminding people of their ancestors and loved ones who have died.
  • Tupuaanuku represents all the food and plants within the soil. It is a reminder to give thanks for the bounty of the earth.
  • Tupuaaraangi links to the fruits of the forests and the birds that inhabit them.
  • Waitii is connected to fresh water and living creatures in the rivers, streams, and lakes. You can look upon this star is recognition and appreciation of our fresh waters in Aotearoa
  • Witaaa, twin of Waitii, is associated with the ocean and food gathered from the sea. This star is also significant for its influence over tides and floodwaters.
  • Waipuna-a-rangi signifies the importance of rainfall, replenishing lakes, rivers, and soil, ensuring that crops grow and there is enough water for all living things.
  • Ururaangi is connected to the winds. It represents the wind and the various impacts it has on the world’s climate and the seasons.
  • Hiwa-i-te-raangi is the star of prosperity and the future. It is the star that people send their hopes and dreams to, making wishes for a better year ahead.

Siohan finished with a whakatauki: Matariki hunga, Matariki ahunga nui. Matariki has many admirers; Matariki brings us together. So this week, embrace one another and celebrate Matariki.