Archive for the 'Māori culture' Category

Te tau hōu Māori: whakanuia!

Sounding conch shells at Matariki celebrations, Wairau Bar, Marlborough, 2009 (pic: Marlborough Express)

Sounding conch shells at Matariki celebrations, Wairau Bar, Marlborough, 2009 (pic: Marlborough Express)

Tēnā koutou, me ngā mihi o te tau hōu Māori ki a koutou katoa! Ae rā, ko te wā o Matariki tēnei, o Puanga rānei. Greetings of the Māori New Year to you all! To some iwi the new year is heralded by the appearance of the constellation Matariki (the Pleiades) in the sky, while to others it is the rising of the star Puanga (Rigel) that marks the start of the new year.

As you can read on Te Ara, Matariki/Puanga is an ancient festival, but one that had largely died out by the mid-20th century, before having a spectacular revival around the turn of this century. While I’m happy to be corrected, this year may in fact mark the 20th anniversary of Matariki’s modern revival.

In June 1995, Wellington’s Evening Post newspaper reported on a two-week festival, Te Whakanui i a Matariki, being held in the capital, mostly at Pipitea marae. Activities were to include kite-flying (which is traditionally associated with Matariki), demonstrations of Māori arts and talks on Māori issues. One of the key organisers of the event was the artist Diane Prince, and the event’s patron was Whetū Tirikātene-Sullivan, MP.

The modern festival of Matariki really took off in the early 2000s, particularly after it started to be promoted by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission). In 2004, Libby Hakaraia published a popular book, Matariki: the Māori New Year, introducing Matariki and its associated customs.

Today Matariki/Puanga is widely celebrated in communities across the country. Many people have also suggested that the Māori new year should become a new public holiday. In 2009, Māori Party MP Rāhui Kātene’s private Member’s Bill, Te Rā o Matariki/Matariki Day Bill, which would have made Matariki a public holiday, had a first reading but was not supported to go to select committee.

There are two main reasons given in support of such a holiday (apart from wanting another day off work!). First, that we should have a holiday that is truly indigenous and based on the seasons of this land. Second, that we need a day of celebration, in contrast to Waitangi Day, which (rightly or wrongly) many people associate with contention and protest. Some people have suggested that a Matariki/Puanga holiday could replace the Queen’s Birthday holiday, or that the Māori new year would be a more appropriate time than Guy Fawkes Day for fireworks.

What do you think about the modern revival of Matariki/Puanga?

Kia maumahara tātau

The Anzac service at Rongomaraeroa marae (pic: Rongomaraeroa marae)

The Anzac service at Rongomaraeroa marae (pic: Rongomaraeroa marae)

When a whole community turns up to support an event you know it is a big deal. Pōrangahau’s population at the last census count was just 195 but approximately 300 people turned up to our Anzac Dawn Service.

The morning started with a brisk march from the Pōrangahau war memorial hall down to the church cemetery and our cenotaph. We were led by the Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles, and as we got closer the sound of karanga echoed eerily of lives lost, of a new day, of a day commemorating those who served from our small community.

Remembering those who served (pic: Rongomaraeroa marae)

Remembering those who served (pic: Rongomaraeroa marae)

It was a time of beauty as well. I te ata hāpara (at dawn) Pōrangahau was shrouded in mist. Whānau marched on to our memorial hall and onwards to our urupā, Kaiwhitikitiki. With karakia we entered, laid our wreaths and moved about to mihi to all our tīpuna. A pōwhiri followed on our marae, Rongomaraeroa. A table stood proudly on the mahau filled with whānau photographs and taonga and our wharekai was beautifully decorated with poppies made by the kura. Waiata welcomed all our whānau and guests for parakuihi (breakfast) and we settled in to hear four local families share their First World War stories.

This is the first time I’ve known an Anzac service to come to the marae – and what a privilege it was to be there.

Kia maumahara tātau – lest we forget.