Paora Sweeney speaking to camera at Zealandia

Matariki Kanohi Iti

13 Jul 2023
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is proud to present Matariki Kanohi Iti, our original programme for Matariki 2023.


E ko Matariki e ko Matariki e

By Paora Sweeney, Kaitohutohu Mātauranga Māori - Mātauranga Māori Outreach Advisor at Ngā Taonga, and presenter of the programme Matariki Kanohi Iti.

‘Matariki kanohi iti’ is an expression well-known among iwi Māori. It speaks of how iwi curated a way of life with the sighting of Matariki on the eastern horizon. Furthermore, this phrase discusses the tikanga formed in this part of the year. The rising of Matariki indicates the end of year and the coming of a new year, and it is also the beginning of Hine Takurua, the winter months. Iwi Māori recognised that during the months of Matariki food sourced from planting and/or kumara pits did not grow and in this period food was scarce. For iwi Māori, planning for this period of the year was integral. During this time, iwi Māori would plan ahead by storing food in pataka kai. This allowed iwi to cultivate methods and create different intrinsic tikanga associated with food, more so for the preservation of food. Iwi Māori interpreted the appearance of Matariki to forecast and determine whether it would be a year of abundance, or a year of low supplies.

‘Matariki kanohi iti’ is a phrase that speaks of this period being a time that food crops are low, which meant iwi did not have the adequate resources to provide for manuhiri (guests). During this time iwi members would often stay within their tribal boundaries, and engagement with other iwi was limited. In this time iwi Māori remained within the reach of their own territory, mostly huddled around fire pits. This allowed their members to connect with one another, share stories, recite whakapapa and strategise for the year ahead. This is the basis from which ‘Matariki kanohi iti’ derives its meaning. This well-known expression describes a period of time full of wonder, connectivity, growth, reflection and life.

Clips selected for the programme

Matariki: Tātai Arorangi (2005) – Karakia by Professor Pou Temara
Our compilation of archival footage, Matariki Kanohi iti, begins with a karakia recited by Professor Pou Temara from the 2005 Matariki episode of Tatai Arorangi. This karakia introduces a clear path acknowledging Ngā Atua Māori and the stars of Ikaroa (Milky-Way) as we connect to Matariki. It also opens the space to allow each speaker featured in the film to share their wonderful insights pertaining to Matariki.

Waka Huia, Matariki (2001) – Miria Simpson
To begin the discussions of Matariki, he wahine whai mana, known to many as the Taniwha of Te Reo Māori, in the Waka Huia Matariki special of 2001, Miria Simpson shares her perspective. She articulates an eloquent overview of Matariki, expressing her aroha, and the acknowledgment of good signs, that she (Matariki) will now take care of those who have passed. But she (Matariki) also calls out to those who are still living, telling them to prepare by planting new crops.

Waka Huia, Tātai Arorangi - Māori Astronomy (2011) – Rangi Mātāmua
In 2011, Waka Huia shared a Matariki special - Tatai Arorangi Māori Astronomy. In this archival footage Dr Rangi Mātāmua states, ‘He nui ngā kōrero mō Matariki; there is a lot to be said about Matariki’. Rangi then talks about the names of each star, and says these names aren’t just any names. Each name has a significant meaning and each star has a purpose.

Waka Huia, Matariki (2001)
This segment of archival footage discusses tikanga various iwi established in and around the time of Matariki. The Waka Huia Matariki special of 2001 features kōrero from many Rangatira o te Motu, sharing tikanga created in connection to Matariki. In the episode Hohepa Kereopa says that these practices should only happen at the time of Matariki. They should remain sacred to this time, allowing the people to make plans and determine ways to make food sources last and to ensure medicinal plants were plentiful, thus keeping people healthy and able to take care of their elders.

Waka Huia, Episode 8. Puanga (2020)
For iwi Māori living on the West Coast close to Mount Taranaki and in the boundaries of the Whanganui river, Puanga is the star that represents the coming of the new year. This segment speaks of Puanga. The mountains in this region, Taranaki and Ruapehu, are of great height and when Matariki appears on the horizon, she is hidden behind the mountains, which made it difficult for iwi to sight Matariki. Therefore Puanga became the star of the year for iwi living on this side of the land. Puanga is the star that brings forth the beginning of the rainy season. Puanga is the star that allows everything from the previous year to be put to rest.

Te Karere, Matariki (2005)
Here are some taonga included in the film that shows how Matariki has been celebrated in more recent times. In this 2005 episode of Te Karere Maihi Nikora travels to te Tairawhiti, to report on the special events taking place among the iwi Ngai Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Ngā Ariki, and Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki. Maihi Nikora speaks with Temepara Ngārangi o Ue, of Ngai Tāmanuhiri about how important it is for Māori to retain kōrero, and waiata that speak of Matariki, kei ngaro, or it will be lost. To conclude the report Maihi Nikora mentions that many iwi from the Tākitimu and Horouta waka are planning to gather at Te Muriwai, for karakia to bring in the new year.

One News, Matariki (2013)
Renee Graham begins this report stating that Matariki has risen for the first time this year. She speaks of its significance to the winter solstice and how for Māori it’s the time to celebrate the new year. She says the celebrations have already started in Wellington with the arrival of two Māori waka. In the report she explains that Matariki means the eyes of gods. She ends the report explaining the Greek called this same cluster of stars the Pleiades, which symbolised rebirth and regeneration.

Waka Huia, Matariki (2001)
I thought to add this archival taonga into the compilation as a reminder that Māori have always advocated to have Matariki recognised nationwide. This is archival footage captured in 2001 of Haami Piripi sharing his thoughts on whether he supports the notion of a Matariki Public Holiday.

Matariki: Tātai Arorangi (2005)
To me this archival compilation of Matariki would not be complete without referencing the stories of Tanenui-a-rangi. In this episode Tawhao Tioke speaks in such a poetic and powerful way sharing the story of Tanenui-a-rangi, nāna te kete i ringi, nāna ngā kete o te wānanga i tiki, ka puta ko ngā whetū tapu, o Te Mangōroa o Ikanui. By Tanenui pouring the kete into the sky, he created what we know now as the Milky Way. This is the story of the creation of the stars.

Mātaki i te reo Māori

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Programme notes