The UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders have spent the past few weeks reflecting on Matariki which plays a significant role in Māori culture in signifying the start of the New Year and for plantings to begin. Here Blair Kapa-Peters and Ashlee Peacock share their experiences of Matariki.
Blair: For some, the Māori Calendar begins with the reappearance of Matariki, or in Hokianga,Te Puangarua constellation. Matariki to me is more than the seven stars. Matariki signifies the time for harvest, for planning and preparing for the year to come. Maramataka (Maori Lunar Calendar) and Matariki were a big part of our rural community in the Far North, knowing when to sow Kumara and Peruperu potatoes, when the fishing was good and when it would be possibly fatal; you could tell, as particular days of Matariki had their own names eg: Tangaroa-a-mua (Day 24) was good for fishing or Hotu (Day 12) a horrible day for fishing – the ocean is rough (people have gone fishing on Hotu and have been swept off our local fishing rock and drowned, so people always say, “check the maramataka”). Matariki for us signified the start of the cultivation season, whereas, the day you stand on your maunga and see Puanga first appear would be the start of the New Year.
Ashlee: Growing up, Matariki or Puanga was never present in my learning. However, as our culture reinstates its existence within Aotearoa New Zealand, the recognition of Matariki/Puanga and its knowledge has become an opportunity of reclamation for our cultural narrative and that of my own.
As I learn more about Matariki and Puanga, I learn about the relationship our ancestors shared with the earth. They recognised their genealogical responsibilities within our world, observed the signs of our eco-systems and reacted so accordingly. Such observations provided insight into how they might direct their daily lives for the health and wellbeing of people and environment.
Personally, learning about some of the knowledge that surrounds Matariki/Puanga has simply made me become more mindful and more curious about our own knowledge systems, and how I can live more consciously with my environment. One of my favourite things about Matariki/Puanga is that “Each star holds a certain significance over our wellbeing and environment…” (https://www.twoa.ac.nz/hononga-stay-connected/te-iwa-o-matariki) In recognising these sacred relationships, I find myself becoming a part of the narrative for our own cultural repository within my own whānau and community.
Now, our country has just come out of our first nation-wide lockdown and Matariki is upon us. This time last year was spent with a generation of people, huddling around the fires at Ihumaatao, on the frontline, together for the whenua. This is a time to gather with whanau, reflect on what has passed and see to the harvest ahead.
Let the rise of Matariki/Puanga be a reminder for the wealth of knowledge that exists in our cultural/historical narrative. Let it signify our sacred relationships with the earth and let us be reminded of the actions and learnings of our ancestors so that we might be able to ensure the wellbeing of people and planet.