Matariki to be marked for first time

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Matariki – Maori New Year – will be marked in Oamaru for the first time this year.
Matariki is the Maori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades.
It rises in late May or early June and, for many Maori, heralds the start of a new year. Matariki literally means the “eyes of god” (mata ariki) or “little eyes” (mata riki).
The occasion will be celebrated in Oamaru with an event at the Friendly Bay playground on June 25.
A powhiri is planned for 7.15am, to be followed by star gazing with commentary.
There will also be musical performances by a group of Rarotongan drummers and the Brass on the Move band, among other items.
Two workshops are also planned, so people will have the chance to learn how to make porotiti (wind instruments) with Canterbury artist Rua Pick or learn how to sculpt limestone with Dugal Armour and Matt King.
Maori stories will also be told.
Co-organiser Brownyn Judge said she hoped to get as many local schools and early childhood education centres involved as possible to help welcome in Matariki.
One of those is Edna McCulloch Kindergarten, where children have been painting their song sheets with stars in preparation for the day.
Waitaha Trust chairwoman Anne Te Maiharoa-Dodds is looking forward to the day and said any event to encourage Maori culture was welcomed.
“I think it’s important for Oamaru because a lot of people are saying, a lot of non-Maori people … there’s no Maori carvings or displays in the [Victorian] precinct or down at the bay and they are wanting to see those types of things down there.”
She said Matariki meant a lot to Maori, but was more commonly celebrated in the North Island.
“Matariki is a special time of year … it’s the harvest time and it’s a time when we acknowledge people and our ancestors that have passed.
“If anyone wants to remember their ancestors, there will be a time when we can do that, and we can all say that together or people can say it in their own hearts. The whole thing will sway towards that special part.
“Matariki has only started up in the last few years in the South Island … nobody’s picked up on it so we haven’t made it special.”
She hoped the Oamaru celebration, funded by the Whitestone Community Arts Council, would become an annual event.
Waimate is holding a Matariki Festival next Friday.
It takes place at Waimate High School from 10am to 2.30pm with performances, kapa haka, and visual displays produced and performed by local tamariki.
Everyone is invited to celebrate Matariki, experience the values of local heritage, and share a hangi. Admission is free. For more information, phone Wendy Heath on (03) 689-4711.