At this time of year, the nine stars of Matariki appear in the night sky heralding the start of the Māori New Year. In these cold hōtoke (winter) months, it was tradition for Māori to gather around with whānau (family) and friends to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and plan for the future.
For museums and galleries, Matariki is an opportunity to demonstrate some of the traditions around this important part of the year and encourage people to adopt parts of the Māori lunar calendar or Maramataka into their lives.
The Maramataka – which was brought to New Zealand by the first Pacific Islanders from Hawaiki – was adapted by the Māori to accommodate the southern hemisphere’s sky, seasons, and climate.
Originally part of an oral tradition, the Maramataka was later documented by early ethnographers who recorded some of this knowledge while it was still in use. It is still in use today to guide planting, harvesting of food, collecting ika (fish) and connecting to activities around wellbeing.
There are hundreds of variations of the Maramataka, with slight differences to names of days and phases, so it is important that museums work in with their local iwi to follow their regional Maramataka.
To provide a more in-depth understanding of the traditions and ideas that underlie Matariki, museums across the country have created resources over the years, so we thought it was high time to do a scan of some of the at-home activities, explainer videos and resources that can be shared amongst our museum whānau.
Ngā mihi nui to all the kaimahi across the motu who have developed these resources for people to spread and share!
The small booklet aimed at young learners explains the importance of the Matariki and provides colouring resources, crosswords, games and stories.
Matariki star facts
Did you know there are about 500 stars in the Matariki cluster, but only nine are visible to the naked eye? Can you name them and describe their significance? In this guide, learn some stunning facts about this star cluster.
Make your own pātaka
Matariki occurs at the end of harvest season, when food stores were plentiful. Traditionally food would be kept in a pātaka. These store houses were built on stilts so rats couldn’t climb in and eat the food. Traditionally Māori had many ways of preserving kai by smoking it or sun-drying it on racks. Birds, such as tītī or muttonbirds, were put into potting containers such as gourds or pōhā (kelp bags) filled with the bird’s fat.
Make your own porotiti
Taonga puoro (Māori musical instruments) were played for a number of reasons including to signify the planting of certain crops at different times of the year. The porotiti is typically a disc made from wood, greenstone or bone which can be spun on twin cords to create a mysterious whirring or humming sound that can accompany singing or other music. For Matariki, South Canterbury Museum has created a series of videos on this unique taonga puoro.
How to find matariki star cluster
In pipiri (June – July), Matariki rises in the south-east. Using the Southern Cross as a starting point, Martin Langdon from Te Papa’s Learning Team, shows star gazers how to find Matariki in the night sky.
Do you have any resources that you would like to share? If so, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us on email@example.com