Mataariki is a time to celebrate and reflect

23 July 2018
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Dr Hirini Kaa is the Kairahi in the Faculty of Arts

Dr Hirini Kaa, our Kaiārahi, takes us through Mataariki and what it means for the Faculty of Arts.

Mataariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars. In English, it is called the Pleiades (its ancient Greek name) or the Seven Sisters. The Hawaiian name is Makali‘i, or 'eyes of royalty', and in Japan it is Subaru, meaning 'gathered together'. It rises in mid-winter and for many Māori, it heralds the start of a new year.

Mataariki literally means the 'eyes of god' (mata-a-ariki) or 'little eyes' (mata-a-riki). According to myth, when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children, the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.

Mataariki is a hopeful event — it symbolises renewal, reawakening, and revival. Traditionally, Mataariki was a time to remember those who had died in the last year. But it was also a happy event — crops had been harvested and seafood and birds had been collected. With plenty of food in the storehouses, Mataariki was a time for singing, dancing and feasting.

Iwi across Aotearoa celebrate Mataariki at different times according to when its return is observed from their rohe (area). To some iwi the new year in mid-winter was signalled by the dawn rising of Mataariki (the Pleiades), while to others it was the rising of Puanga (Rigel in Orion).

In our faculty Mataariki has two functions. Firstly it honours tikanga Māori and acknowledges that we are here in Aotearoa and the Pacific in the twenty first century. In doing this we can recognise that Māori, as tangata whenua, have different ways of conceptualising time and space and knowledge that we can incorporate these approaches into our life as a faculty. By doing so we uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi and show who we want to be as a faculty.

Secondly Mataariki is also a time of celebration and reflection for us as a faculty. We spend these winter months together in wānanga (learning together) and in whare tapere (entertaining one another) – both of which build our whanaungatanga, our connections to one another.

So now we celebrate and reflect, with events ranging early morning feasts through to celebrations of our teaching excellence, as well as student facing celebrations. And we learn together how to be a faculty in this time, and in this place.