Matariki – Te Whetū Tapu o te Tau – Speech to School Assembly by Finlay Kamo-Watson.
This is a special week, marking the start of the 2018 Matariki celebrations for Aotearoa. You may notice many activities in Tauranga Moana to celebrate Matariki. Next week Aquinas College will have activities to recognise, learn and understand its importance. We are going to look at Matariki and what it means.
We are lucky to have a guest speaker today, she is a familiar face to hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders because she’s on TV. Her name is Miriama Kamo and I’m lucky as she is also my Aunty. Aunty Minnie will be speaking to you later on.
Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades(Plee-ay-dees). It rises in mid-winter and for Māori, it’s the start of a new year. Matariki literally means the ‘eyes of god’ – mata – ariki.
My research revealed slightly different versions of what Matariki means to maori.
In fact, some iwi, like Taranaki, observe Puanga, rather than Matariki – but all iwi see it as the beginning of a new year. Dr Rangi Maataamua from Tuhoe is an astronomer, or tohunga kōkōrangi. I’m going to look at Dr Rangi Maataamua’s version which was passed onto him by his tupuna, his ancestors, his Koro gave him a manuscript which is now published. This is how I’ve interpreted what he is saying.
There is another version that celebrates Matariki as 7 sisters. Dr Maataamua says that the 7 sisters is a Greek myth, not a Maori korero. Interestingly around the Pacific Islands they also celebrate Matariki and call it the same name or a variation of it, like Mataliki in Hawai’i. In Dr Maataamua’s book, his koro said Matariki is the shortened version of ‘nga mata o te ariki o Tawhirimatea’.
Where many say there are 7 stars, Dr Matamua says there are 9 and, in fact, there might be more. We are going to have a quick look at the names of the stars and what they mean. The oldest is a female called Pohutukawa, this star guides our dead across the night skies every night.
The next is Tupuānuku who is connected to all things that grow in our garden.
Then there is Tupuārangi who is connected to anything that grows in the sky particularly birds.
The next is Waitī which means fresh water, this is connected to everything that comes out of the lakes and rivers.
Then there is Waitā which is an old word for salt water and is connected to all things that come from Tangaroa, God of the sea.
Waipunarangi connects to rain, this star will determine what your rain and weather will be like.
Ururangi is similar to Waipunarangi which means wind, and will tell you how windy it’s going to be.
Hiwa-i-te-rangi, is a star where our wishes are sent to for the year hoping they will come true.
To my understanding Matariki is the conductor of the cluster of the stars, the mother of the children.
Tupuārangi and Tupuānuku determine how your birds or your gardens will be.
Waitī and Waitā, are female and male. The reason Waitī is above Waitā is because fresh water will always flow down to salt water, never the other way around.
Waipunarangi and Ururangi, balance each other. They are weather, rain and wind, the reason they are above the other stars is because rain and wind come from above.
Pōhutukawa and Hiwa-i-te-rangi are the two sacred stars in the cluster, they are connected with carrying our dead and our wishes and the desires of our heart.
Our tipuna would look for signs in the early morning to determine what their year would be like. They’d look for combinations, so for example, if Tupuārangi is really bright it’s going to be a good year to catch pigeons as there will be plenty of fruit high up in the trees.
Now if Hiwa-i-te-rangi is big and bright that is a sign to send your wishes to Hiwa. So time to buy your lotto ticket just saying.
Matariki, if you see that star nice and bright in the sky someone you know who is sick will get better because Matariki is a healer.
Dr Maataamua says that, unlike our modern western culture, Maori didn’t follow the sun for their yearly calendar. Maori follow the Lunar calendar. So if we tried to follow the solar calendar for Matariki, we would be celebrating Matariki too early.
So to wrap up, Matariki signals the time to gather and preserve crops. It also signaled when to plant crops after a long winter, if the stars were bright planting began in September, if they were hazy and closely bunched, it was put off until October. It is an important time to celebrate the earth, and show respect for the land that we live on. It is time to reflect on the past, remember our whakapapa and our loved ones who have passed on.
I would like to introduce our next speaker. She is well known in New Zealand as a television journalist, but most recently is known as the author of a book called ‘The Stolen stars of Matariki’. The book is set in my hometown, where my grandma and Papa live. It’s called Birdling’s Flat or Te Mata Haapuku. My mum, and her brothers and sisters, including Aunty Minnie grew up out there. She started her career in journalism as a radio announcer, then she then went on to television in the late 1990s. She’s worked on a children’s program called Get Real, and on backch@t which was an arts program. She’s been the presenter of 20/20 and lifestyle programme Kiwi living. Aunty Minnie has worked on most of TVNZ’s news programmes, like One News at 6. But her favourite role is as the presenter of Current Affairs program Sunday and māori current affairs programme Marae. Aunty Minnie is an ambassador for Pillars which is a charitable organisation supporting children of prison inmates. She has written for online news-sites and magazines, and if I go on any longer on how amazing she is we will run out of time for her to speak, please give a warm welcome to Miriama Kamo.