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Celebrating Matariki at Waikato

23 June 2022

Matariki stargazing in Hamilton
University of Waikato staff and students were up before dawn to view the Matariki stars in Hamilton.

The University of Waikato has celebrated Matariki with a number of public and staff events at its campuses in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) and Tauranga.

On Tuesday evening, renowned Waikato-Tainui orator and historian Rahui Papa spoke at the inaugural Matariki Lecture at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts in Hamilton.

His talk, which was also live streamed on the University’s Facebook page, focused on Te Paki-O-Matariki, the coat of arms of the Kīngitanga, and the relevance of Matariki to the King movement.

Rahui Papa at the Matariki lecture
Renowned Waikato-Tainui historian and orator Rahui Papa spoke at the University on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday morning, staff and students gathered at 5am at the University’s Te Kohinga Mārama Marae in Hamilton to view the Matariki star cluster.

Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan spoke about the movement of the stars and how they are used in ocean navigation, then led the group to view Matariki from the Ruakura SuperHub public platform.

The crisp, clear weather meant that the group was able to identify Matariki rising to the east, along with Kōpū (Venus), Puanga (Rigel), Atutahi (Canopus) and other celestial bodies visible in the southern hemisphere winter night sky.

Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan
Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan speaking about Matariki at Te Kohinga Mārama Marae.

In Tauranga, Te Tohu Paetahi lecturer Ngairo Eruera gave a presentation on Monday to staff and students, introducing Matariki from a Tauranga Moana iwi perspective.

Titled ‘Matariki Kauhau mo te Tau Hou Māori’, his talk built on “the body of knowledge about the stars, and the narratives of Matariki and its origin stories”, said Ngairo.

It also included references to ancestral waka navigation, the importance of the stars and the work of Tauranga tohunga (master navigator) Jack Thatcher.

Ngairo Eruera's Tauranga presentation
Ngairo Eruera spoke to Tauranga staff and students about Matariki from a Tauranga Moana iwi perspective.

On Thursday, the Tauranga Te Tohu Paetahi class went on a pre-dawn hīkoi (excursion) to Moturiki Island to view Matariki.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori, Dr. Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai, said that Matariki was a special time for people to come together and connect with one another.

“Matariki is a time of celebration, not just for Māori, but for all New Zealanders, and this year is a special one with the very first public holiday to celebrate Matariki on 24 June,” she said.

“It is a time for whānau to remember those who are no longer with us, to reflect on the year that has been and to set new intentions for the year ahead."

Having Rahui Papa speak at the University’s inaugural Matariki lecture was “a privilege”.

“Our Hamilton campus is on land vested in Pōtatau Te Wherowhero title (the first Māori King), so we wanted a perspective of Matariki that was located firmly within Kīngitanga.”

The lecture also served as an introduction to a development programme about the Kīngitanga for University staff later in the year, part of the University’s commitment to the outcomes of the Taskforce.

Sarah-Jane said that the various events held in Tauranga and Hamilton were “wonderful introductions to those of us who gathered” to learn about Matariki from local perspectives.

In addition, as part of the Matariki ki Waikato festival, a free art exhibition - Voices of Mana Motuhake - is on at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts on the Hamilton campus until August 26.

  • View the recording of Rahui Papa’s Te Paki-O-Matariki lecture here.
  • Read more about the Matariki art exhibition here.
View of the dawn sky from Tauranga
The view from Tauranga Moana, taken during the Te Tohu Paetahi class hīkoi on Thursday morning to view Matariki. Photo: Marcelle Wharerau, Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies.

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