21 July 2019

Matariki 2019

Matariki is the 'te reo' term for Pleiades the constellation which (down in the South Pacific) rises in the north-eastern horizon late in June and, for Maori, marks the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

It is a time for reflection on those who have gone before and for planning the year ahead - in particular ensuring crops are planted and grown. In New Zealand it is increasingly becoming a time for celebration - there is even talk of making it a national day. The season of Matariki is marked with a pre-dawn ceremony usually started at 0530 in the morning - brrrr.


Catherine and I have been going to this over the last three years. It is celebrated in Hamilton in the local botanical gardens - these are Hamilton's pride and joy, having been recently awarded the prize as International Tourist Garden of the Year. Catherine was guest speaker this year (talking about the nursery production of native plants for a 500 year (!) restoration project) and I penned my response (below) as a pakeha for the local newsletter of the Friends of Hamilton Gardens.

Kumara Being Cultivated

Pataka (food storehouse)

A Personal (and Pakeha) Response to the Dawn of Matariki - 2019

Surrounded by mountains, Taupiri, Pirongia, Kakepuku and Maungatautari we gather. Car doors close and we move under a misty darkness, guided by smiles and torchlight, to a circular piazza, our gathering place. Significantly for the occasion of Matariki the piazza represents the birthplace of Galileo who confirmed that we circle about our star – our four seasons. He was also the first to observe Matariki through a telescope.
At the piazza there is time to connect - to greet – and think …
The haunting karanga, like the stars of Matariki, seems to call from light years away. Announced by the conch shell our hikoi moves forward and we circle about a garden of kumara - and pataka. We recall the past year and welcome the year ahead – planning, planting, nurturing, harvesting and storing. And in a beautiful language and translation we are welcomed and reminded of the occasion. Isn’t rangihaeata (the first light of dawn) a beautiful and, for Matariki, a meaningful word?
Back through the piazza we gather again. Another karanga calls us to the Matariki breakfast. It has been cold outside and now we are inside. Music and warmth surround us. Song and poi delight us. We recognize familiar faces - smile or hongi or shake hands. The food is good. People speak. We are welcomed again – informed of voluntary social and environmental work – given the gift of a plant for the planet – something for the birds – berries for birdsong.
Somewhere outside, out there, the eyes of Matariki look down. We have greeted the dawn, honored the new year.
karanga calls us
from pre-dawn suns
hikoi in the dark
matariki light years away
seven eyes see us

This is a Tanka, a Japanese poetry form.


Nursery for Native Plants - Hamilton

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