Matariki is a time to reflect, celebrate and prepare for the year ahead, and this year people are encouraged to return to their whānau, wherever and whoever that might be.
In the Eastern Bay of Plenty, a special celebration will be held on Thursday 13th July for the Mataatua rohe and Whakatāne community to celebrate the Māori New Year together.
The Matariki Whakapiri festival is jointly hosted by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa and Te Whare Wānanga a Awanuiārangi, and BayTrust has granted $10,000 towards the running costs of the second annual event.
“We found last year there was a real appetite within the Whakatāne community for a place to get together and celebrate Matariki,” explains Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Manahautū (Chief Executive) Reuben Araroa.
“Matariki kainga hokia has a goal to inspire people to return home and spend quality time with their loved ones. It also aims to capture the wairua (soul) of the event while speaking to people of all ages and backgrounds to encourage their participation with Matariki.
“For Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, this means creating a space and opportunity for this to take place where our iwi and hapori (community) can celebrate and embrace the uniqueness of Ngāti Awatanga as a way of appreciating Matariki.”
Matariki became an official public holiday last year and is the Māori name for the cluster of stars that rises in midwinter. For many Māori, it heralds the start of the new year or te Mātahi o te Tau.
The Matariki Whakapiri festival at Te Manuka Tūtahi Marae will feature a pōhiri and karakia followed by kapa haka performances from multiple groups which will include at least one song each about Matariki.
In the evening, Ngāti Awa storyteller Pouroto Ngaropo will share his narratives about Matariki. Various performers will entertain the crowd and a night market with food stalls will keep people happy and bellies full.
BayTrust’s funding has ensured a family-friendly activity station will be at this year’s festival including bouncy castles, facing painting, harakeke (flax weaving) and Māori art practitioners.
“We were very relieved to receive this grant as we were contemplating having to cut back on some aspects of the festival. But now we can fully cater for our tamariki. We are very grateful for the funding support.”
A small portion of the grant will also be used to help fund ongoing wananga (workshops) to strengthen Ngati Awa’s cultural practices such as whaikorero (formal speeches) and karanga (ceremonial calls).
A special one day wananga will also be held in conjunction with Matariki out to visit Te Paepae o Aotea (Volkner Rocks) just north of Whakaari (White Island).
“As Ngati Awa we believe our spirits return to Hawaiki and that’s one of the last touch points that our spirits make before they leave these shores,” Reuben explains. “It is a place of spiritual significance so it’s important to reflect on that at this special time of year.”