Indigenous | Matariki

Matariki in Hawke’s Bay: Fire, water, and a feast for the soul

Fires lit on Napier's Marine Parade beach at the Matariki Mahuika event of 2023. Photo / Warren Buckland / NZ Herald

As Te Matau-a-Māui Hawke’s Bay begins to celebrate Matariki, there’s no shortage of events to mark the occasion. From lanterns on the water to blazing beach bonfires and light shows, a wide range of fire, light and water events will bring whānau together to reflect, connect, and look ahead to the future. Hawke’s Bay Today looks at some exciting things planned for this special holiday.

What is Matariki?

Matariki is the Pleiades star cluster and a celebration of its first rising in late June or early July. It signals the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar.

This year’s theme, announced by chief adviser Mātauranga Matariki Professor Rangi Mātāmua earlier this month, is Matariki Heri Kai - The feast of Matariki.

“Matariki Heri Kai is a proverb that speaks to the association between the appearance of Matariki and the bounty of the impending season,” he said.

“The different stars in the Matariki cluster have an association to the various domains from where we source our food, in particular: gardens (Tupuānuku), forests (Tupuārangi), fresh water (Waitī) and ocean (Waitā). This connection encourages us to consider our role in protecting and caring for these ecosystems.”

Ngāti Kahungunu chair Bayden Barber said the festive period was a great time to connect with friends and whānau.

“Kahungunu have a big Matariki agenda. We’ve got all our taiwhenua that have Matariki festivals.”

He said it was also a time of reflection and planning for the year ahead, which fits well into this year’s theme.

“I’m looking forward to catching up with our people, and it’s always a good opportunity to look ahead at the New Year and some of the things we need to achieve with aspirations and goals.

“Matariki is normally the time of the year when you get your kai ready and seeds in for the wintertime. It’s not just about the physical food; kai doesn’t come without mahi, and you have to put in the hard yards before you can harvest.”

Families celebrate the Hakari Matariki event at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds in Hastings last year. Photo / Paul Taylor

Wonders on water

In a new event, the recently opened Hastings Waiaroha Water Centre will celebrate a special hīkoi of remembrance on June 25 and 26 from 6pm to 9pm each evening.

People can create a waka lantern with a personal message of healing and remembrance, join a walk to Ngā Pou o Heretaunga in Civic Square, and then return to Waiaroha to float their lantern in the water.

The whare will host storytelling, special performances, and fun kids’ activities. Food from kai trucks and live music will also be available.

“Waiaroha has also been designed to celebrate the knowledge and creativity of Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga through on-site art and storytelling,” a council spokesperson said.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase the facility to the community while celebrating the Māori New Year.”

Event cancelled

A Matariki-inspired event planned for Wednesday evening (June 19) in Flaxmere has been cancelled.

The Pools of Matariki Tapuapua event was scheduled to be held at Flaxmere Park but has been cancelled due to forecasted poor weather.

Teacher and lecturer Hira Huata (left), Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and director of major projects Graeme Hansen at the opening of the Waiaroha Heretaunga Discovery Centre in 2023. Photo / Paul Taylor

Bright lights and bonfires

Napier’s Ātea a Rangi Star Compass is a hub for celebrating traditional navigation and storytelling and is hosting a special light show and a mix of free and ticketed community events.

The ticketed Whānau Marama light show runs from June 24 to 28 from 6.30pm-9.30pm. It showcases Whānau Marama – Family of Light, Matariki, and the traditional star compass navigators use for voyaging across the Pacific Ocean.

The Ātea will also host free dawn workshops from June 25 to 27, starting at 6am with talks from local waka navigators and sighting Matariki stars and planets. A Hautapu ceremony and hangi will take place on Matariki morning from 5am-7am, with kai on offer for a gold coin donation.

The Atea a Rangi Celestial Compass will be a hive of activity this Matariki. Photo / Warren Buckland

Tennyson and Hastings Streets in Napier will also be a hive of Matariki activity from 5.30pm to 8.30pm on June 21, where the town will be lit up by the nine stars of Matariki and the opportunity to experience special performances, storytelling and kai.

Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise is “really looking forward” to the event.

“It’s a time to celebrate and have some fun as a community,” she said.

“As a council we are also supporting other locally led events. It’s wonderful to see the interest and excitement grow year upon year.”

Napier’s Marine Parade Beach will also play a big role in the celebrations.

On the morning of the 27th, a three-part pre-dawn ceremony will take place where people can observe the stars, call the names of those who passed, and make a food offering to the Matariki star cluster in the form of steam rising to the skies.

The night of the 28th will see the Hawke’s Bay coast light up for a second year, with the well-publicised Matariki Mahuika event returning. The DIY event that sees hundreds of driftwood fires lit up is focused on whānau connection, community collaboration and storytelling.

Over in Hastings that same night, ‘Kai Hau Kai Matariki: Celebrate Matariki Hastings’ will see fireworks, art and dancing light up the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports.

“The Kotahitanga theme, which is prevalent throughout Kahungunu and evident last month at the Hui Taumata, will continue throughout Matariki,” Barber said.

Separate councils, the Ātea a Rangi Trust, and the Hawke’s Bay Tourism websites have a full list of Matariki events and times. Hawke’s Bay Today will be highlighting specific CHB, Tararua and Wairoa events over the coming week.

Mitchell Hageman joined Hawke’s Bay Today in January 2023. From his Napier base, he writes regularly on social issues, arts and culture, and the community.

- NZ Herald