Matariki has always been an important time in the Māori calendar.
Heralded by the rising of the star constellation known as Matariki, the Māori New Year signalled a time for connecting with, and giving thanks to the land, sea and sky. It was a time for the community to come together to farewell those departed and acknowledge the year gone by. It was also a time to turn to the future, welcoming the new generation to the world and planning for the year ahead.
In addition Matariki was a time when people would gather to share kai, rituals, entertainment, hospitality and learnings.
While the pre-dawn rising of the star cluster Matariki is referred to as 'Te Tau Hou', the New Year, for many Māori the first new moon after the rise of Matariki signalled the start of the New Year celebrations, with the moon (Marama) being central to activities of harvesting kai and the start for all things new.
Historically, the star cluster was a navigational aid for Māori and an indicator of the upcoming seasons. If the stars were clear, it was a sign that the year ahead would be warm and therefore productive. If they were hazy and closely bunched together, then a cold year would be in store.
Matariki celeberations were popular before the arrival of the Europeans in New Zealand and they continued into the 1900s. Gradually they dwindled, with one of the last traditional festivals recorded in the 1940s.
At the beginning of the 21st century Matariki celebrations were revived and have become a special time of the year to respect the land we live on, celebrate the unique place we live in and continue to share and grow with each other.
According to tradition, Matariki has two meanings - tiny eyes or it is also sometimes called Mata ariki – the eyes of god.
Māori legend tells of a time when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were forcibly separated by their children.
The god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens, where they have been in existence ever since.
Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleiades, a star cluster in the constellation Taurus.
Pleiades, the Greek name for the cluster, comes from seven sisters of Greek legend, the daughters of Atlas and Pleone. This is reminiscent of the Māori and Pacific stories that say Matariki is a mother surrounded by her six daughters.
The galactic cluster is internationally recognised as it can be viewed from anywhere in the world, acting as a key navigation beacon for ocean voyagers as well as an important signal for seasonal celebration in many countries.
In Greece, several major temples face straight towards Matariki, as does Stonehenge in England. In Japan, the Subaru brand is named after the Matariki stars.
Keep an eye out in late May early June as Matariki rises on the northeast horizon, around the same spot as the rising sun.
The best time to spot Matariki is around half an hour before dawn.
In 2003 Auckland’s Matariki Festival grew out of a vision of the former
Auckland, North Shore, Manukau and Waitakere city councils to reclaim, promote
and commemorate Matariki as a celebration and to remember Aotearoa’s unique
Originally co-ordinated and promoted by the four councils under the Toi Whenua banner, the festival has grown to include dozens of events organised across Tamaki Makaurau annually - giving everyone a chance to come together with tangata whenua to experience this living cultural tradition.
Auckland Council, established in November 2010, is now the festival core producer. It presents a number of the key events in association with its sponsors and supporters and also promotes the festival.The Matariki logo was developed using three key influences;
From these influences a unique icon was created that represents our connection with each other, our ancestors, the land we live in and the stars we honour.
The 2011 colour palette takes inspiration from the land we live in and is more earthy in tones than the 2010 colour palette. The background texture is representative of the bark and grain from an established native tree.