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Matariki Festival takes off

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Matariki Festival takes off

The 2012 Matariki Festival is an Auckland wide celebration of the Maori New Year and is heralded by the rising of the Matariki star cluster.

The festival features more than 50 events proudly presented by Auckland Council and community groups, together with its sponsors and supporters. A celebration of traditional Maori customs, culture and creativity, the Matariki Festival is a fantastic opportunity for residents, communities and organisations throughout T?maki Makaurau to enjoy this special time of year.

From the official dawn Karakia at Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) to the Manu Aute Kite Day supported by New Zealand Post and the 2degrees Kapa Haka Super 12 Competition, there is something for everyone to enjoy in the Matariki Festival 2012.

The month-long festival is proudly presented by Auckland Council in partnership with its family of sponsors and supporters like NZ Post and 2degrees.

History of Auckland's Matariki Festival

In 2003 Auckland's Matariki Festival grew out of a vision of the former Auckland, North Shore, Manukau and Waitakere city councils to reclaim, promote and commemorate Matariki as a celebration and to remember Aotearoa's unique Maori heritage.

Originally co-ordinated and promoted by the four councils under the Toi Whenua banner, the festival has grown to include dozens of events organised across Tamaki Makaurau annually - giving everyone a chance to come together with tangata whenua to experience this living cultural tradition.

Auckland Council, established in November 2010, is now the festival core producer. It organises a number of the key events and promotes the festival, which attracts thousands each year.

History of Matariki

Matariki has always been an important time in the Maori calendar.

Heralded by the rising of the star constellation known as Matariki, the Maori New Year signalled a time for connecting with, and giving thanks to the land, sea and sky. It was a time for the community to come together to farewell those departed and acknowledge the year gone by. It was also a time to turn to the future, welcoming the new generation to the world and planning for the year ahead. In addition Matariki was a time when people would gather to share kai, rituals, entertainment, hospitality and learnings.

While the pre-dawn rising of the star cluster Matariki is referred to as 'Te Tau Hou', the New Year, for many Maori the first new moon after the rise of Matariki signalled the start of the New Year celebrations, with the moon (Marama) being central to activities of harvesting kai and the start for all things new.

Historically the Matariki star cluster was a navigational aid for Maori and an indicator of the upcoming seasons. If the stars were clear, it was a sign that the year ahead would be warm and therefore productive. If they were hazy and closely bunched together then a cold year would be in store.

Matariki celebrations were popular before the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand and they continued into the 1900s. Gradually they dwindled, with one of the last traditional festivals recorded in the 1940s.

At the beginning of the 21st century Matariki celebrations were revived and have become a special time of the year to respect the land we live on, celebrate the unique place we live in and continue to share and grow with each other.

Matariki stars

Matariki is the Maori name for the Pleiades, a star cluster in the constellation Taurus.

Matariki translates to tiny eyes. It is also sometimes called Mata ariki, which translates to the eyes of God.

Maori legend tells of a time when the god of winds T?whirim?tea became so angry that Ranginui the sky father and Papat??nuku the earth mother had been forcibly separated that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens, where they have been in existence ever since.

Meanwhile, Pleiades, the Greek name for the cluster, comes from seven sisters of Greek legend, the daughters of Atlas and Pleone. This is reminiscent of some Pacific stories that say Matariki is a mother surrounded by her six daughters. The galactic cluster is internationally recognised as it can be viewed from anywhere in the world. It acts as a key navigation beacon for ocean voyagers as well as being an important signal for seasonal celebration in many countries.

In Greece, several major temples face straight towards Matariki, as does Stonehenge in England. In Japan the Subaru brand is named after the Matariki stars.

Keep an eye out in late May / early June as Matariki rises on the northeast horizon around the same spot as the rising sun. The best time to spot Matariki is around half an hour before dawn.

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