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Learning & Information | Rukuhia Te Puna Mātauranga

Ngā Mara Ātea to celebrate Matariki in style

Published 6 April 2019

A shared feast is the best way to celebrate Matariki but the participants at Life Unlimited’s (now known as
Your Way | Kia Roha) Ngā Mara Ātea (marae centred programme) in Hamilton are taking it one step further this year.

The celebration will comprise of a traditional hangi at Kirikiriroa Marae in Wairere Drive on Tuesday June 11 from 5.30pm but the welcome to visitors will be a little bit different than the norm, says Community Services manager April Johnson.


“Our whanau have been learning sign language from Riki Raupita and will sign language the karakia to their family and friends,” she said.

By then their hard work from earlier in the day – preparing the hangi – will have borne a delicious feast, says April.

Participants in the Ngā Mara Ātea programme are aged between 16 and 65 and have an intellectual disability. By participating in the programme, they get an introduction to Tikanga Māori (living by Māori values) and Te Reo Māori (Māori language) in a safe and supportive whanau environment.

It is a programme where participants can ‘stand inside the marae’ so that their ‘distress may cease’.

As part of the celebration, the participants will showcase their artwork and make a presentation on what Matariki means to them.

What is Matariki?

Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades (or Subaru in Japan). It rises in mid-winter and for many Māori, it heralds the start of a new year.

Traditionally, it was a time for remembering the dead, celebrating new life and planting new crops. In the 21st century, observing Matariki has become popular again as a cross-cultural celebration. Kites, kai, balloons and fireworks help mark the occasion.

Iwi across Aotearoa celebrate Matariki at different times according to when its return is observed from their rohe (area). To some Iwi the new year in mid-winter was signalled by the dawn rising of Matariki (the Pleiades), while to others it was the rising of Puanga (Rigel in Orion). Matariki or Puanga can be seen pre-dawn in the northeast of the sky, just above the horizon from mid-June to early July.

Because Māori follow the Māori lunar calendar, not the European calendar, the dates for Matariki change every year. In 2019, the Matariki cluster will set on 27 May and return from 25-28 June. The Matariki period is 25 June-3 July.

Where to celebrate


In the capital, Wellington City Council has moved its annual major fireworks event from Guy Fawkes Night to Matariki, for the first time this year. There have also been calls to make Matariki a public holiday.

The fireworks event will take place on the waterfront, Saturday 7 July, at 6.30pm. wellington.govt.nz

If you fancy connecting with the spiritual side of the occasion, Te Papa will once again be running their ritual event, featuring stories and personal reflection. Friday 15 June, 7pm – 8.30pm. tepapa.govt.nz


A huge celebration sees over 100 events across the region, kicking off on June 30 with prayers – or karakia – at the Arataki Visitor Centre. There will also be kite-flying, kapa haka performances and street food.
Saturday 30 June – Sunday 22 July. matarikifestival.org.nz


The Arts Centre will be a community hub between June 21 and July 22. It will be hosting a night market for the first time, as will as performances from singer-songwriters, and fish and chips and pavlova.
The Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities will also be open late on Friday, 6 July, 11:00am through until 10:00pm. artscentre.org.nz


There will be night markets, a craft day, star gazing and even an open mic night. Events take place from June 15 until 28 July. matarikiwaikato.nz

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