N g a W h a k a p a p a o M a t a r i k i
Titiro ki runga i te rangi i te ata tu
Tahuri atu ra ki te Tairawhiti i te marama o Pipiri
Kimi hia ra i nga whetu i te taha tu o te rangi
Ka kite atu koe i a Matariki me ana tamahine
Look above in the heavens at dawn
Turn to the East in the month of June
Search out there in the stars along the horizon
You will see Matariki and her daughters
– Haami Moeke
The Nga Whakapapa o Matariki series is about the celebration of Matariki – the Maori New Year according to the Maori lunar calendar.
Francis Bacon said the role of the artist is always to deepen the mystery. I have attempted to awaken what lies beneath our reality and conception.
I try to capture what lies beyond the realm of metaphysics, abstract concepts of being, identity, time and space. If we sustain that wonder and explore it, sometimes it’s not what is in the artwork but what’s left out which makes it stimulating. Like others, I believe that communication is the most important part of creating artwork. Art must communicate.
I derive my subject from the heart, drawing on my imagination and feelings.
M a t a r i k i
Maori New Year is heralded by the sighting of the small cluster of stars as Matariki (the Pleiades) appears on the eastern horizon just before dawn. The rising and setting of certain stars marked the progression of the seasonal cycles, which in turn formed the basis of the Maori lunar maramataka (calendar). The rising of Matariki to the north-east of Turanga (Gisborne) during early June is a time for iwi jubilation and celebration. It is a time to remember the Ancestors and passing on tribal knowledge to younger generations. Maori New Year is associated with rebirth, light, life, well-being, growth and regeneration. The annual disappearance of Matariki occurs to the West of Turanga and the May skies mark the end of the Maori lunar year.
With the heliacal rising of Matariki, Maori saw the shape of a waka with Matariki at the tauihu (prow). Matariki is surrounded by her six daughters; Tupu-a-nuku, Tupu-a-rangi, Waiti, Waita, Waipuna-a-rangi and Ururangi.
Matariki holds the highest rank among the stars for Maori, it ushered in the New Year and was used as a navigational star for long ocean voyages. Maori New Year has been a focus for the regeneration of all things Maori – the language, arts and customary practices. One account tells of Matariki and her daughters appearing to assist the sun, Te Ra, whose winter journey from the north had left it weakened. Others say Matariki means the ‘eyes of God’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki). Maori mark the passing of the old year and the beginning of the new with the sighting of the next new moon after Matariki has been seen. Maori New Year comes at the end of the harvesting season as people prepare for winter.
The customary practices of the tangata whenua of Turanga are intricately linked to Te huihui o Matariki (the Pleiades), the gathering of Matariki. When the waka Horouta landed at Turanga, it was Hinehakirirangi, the East Coast Ancestress, who was responsible for lifting the tapu. She set out to select the planting grounds for kumara. When the Riro-riro bird (gray warbler) called “tanu-kai tanu-kai” this signaled the time to plant. Maori astronomical lore largely concerns itself with regulation of economic activities. Maori economics and scientific knowledge are gifts from the celestial realm.