Telling the story of Matariki

Rangi Matamua

Associate Professor Rangi Matamua with his new book Matariki: The Star of the Year. The cover is by Te Haunui Tuna.

Associate Professor Rangi Matamua has been researching Māori astromony for about 20 years and has a big book in the works.

Two years ago, he started writing a chapter about Matariki and after he’d completed 130 pages he thought, “this is a book on its own”.

Matariki: The Star of the Year will have its official launch on campus in the Academy on Wednesday 24 May at 6pm. Matariki has been published in te reo Māori and English by Wellington-based Huia Publishers.

Matariki sets around the month of May and its pre-dawn rise in June or July signals the beginning of the Māori New Year.

“I think it’s important that Māori tell their own stories from their own perspectives,” Rangi says. “This book covers traditional practices, traditional ceremonies and beliefs, and importantly examines whether Matariki has a purpose in a modern context.”

With photographer Erica Sinclair, Rangi has tramped across the country “sometimes in the middle of the night” to capture a specific star cluster at a particular time. “We got shots with different mountains or rivers, at different marae and with an assortment of carvings,” he says.

The text has also been enhanced with illustrations and diagrams by Te Haunui Tuna.

Rangi wanted the book to be widely accessible, so while the research is robust, he has worked to make the writing clear and simple. He says there’s a lot of interest in Matariki right across Aotearoa. Last year Rangi and his colleague and fellow researcher Dr Hemi Whaanga travelled the length of the country giving public lectures about Matariki. “In Rotorua we had about 250 people turn up, and at three of the lectures down south we had 200 or more at each of them.”

Rangi will be talking about his new book at the May launch and there’ll be books available to buy for $35. If you would like to attend the launch, RSVP to for catering purposes.

Meanwhile, the exhibition at Waikato Museum, Te Whānau Mārama: The Heavenly Bodies, based on Rangi and Hemi’s research, is a finalist in the Service IQ NZ Museum Awards for exhibitions in two catergories — Excellence: Taonga Māori and Most Innovative Use of Te Reo Māori.

The exhibition is a collaboration with academics from the University of Waikato, and is supported by funding from Trust Waikato. It shines a light on Māori astronomy, and how it has been interpreted from oral histories, to pre-European Aotearoa and now in the 21st century.

The exhibition runs until 13 July 2018. Entry is free.