Matariki: Stories and Stars: WORD Christchurch 2022

“Knowledge that isn’t shared isn’t knowledge” Timi Rāwiri Mātāmua
a prompt gifted by the Grandfather of Professor Rangiānehu ‘Rangi’ Mātāmua when he gave a 400 page manuscript on tātai arorangi Māori | Maori astronomy collated by his own grandfather and great grandfather to Mātāmua, and share he has.

In recent years, Mātāmua, supported by Te Apārangi – the Royal Society of New Zealand, has undertaken his own extensive research into indigenous astronomy, throughout the country and world, based on the Mātauranga Māori contained in the manuscript. Examining oral traditions and histories, waiata, karakia and other repositories of knowledge Mātāmua has identified links and reconfirmed the knowledge contained within this over 100 year old document.

Thus as a result of his research, in 2016, through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Mātāmua reintroduced Te Iwa o Matariki – the nine stars of Matariki, restoring the celestial stars Pōhutukawa and Hiwa-ite-Rangi to their rightful place within the Matariki narration. He followed this up with the release of Matariki – The Star of the Year in June 2017 and the Māori version Matariki – Te Whetū Tapu a te Tau, to celebrate Te Wiki o te Reo Māori in the same year.  According to Mātāmua this book is but a tantalising chapter of the manuscript that he was gifted, with a promise of more to come.


It was during his research that he discovered the oral traditions and histories of other indigenous peoples relating to the star cluster we call Matariki. Following a chance meeting with Mātāmua, then the publication of her book Ngā Whetū Marama i whanakotia | The stolen stars of Matariki in 2018, Miriama Kamo took up the chance to co-author with Mātāmua their new book Matariki around the World – a cluster of stars, a cluster of stories. A beautiful book that explores the origins of the Matariki cluster through nine named whetū as well as stories from the Pacific Islands to Australia, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Africa.

Matariki Around the World

Many will know Kamo from presenting Māori current affairs programme Marae or TVNZ’s current affairs programme Sunday or even from reading the odd occasional news bulletin. But she has always loved writing, having once dreamt of being a writer. An unexpected nudge towards the subject of Matariki from a publisher led Kamo to writing her first book which she admits she initially struggled with. Although having grown up on her Marae, she hadn’t grown up with celebrating Matariki. After encouragement to write about what she knows and discussions with Mātāmua, she stepped into the knowledge and wrote from the heart.

On a beautiful Ōtautahi | Christchurch spring day a lucky few had the pleasure of Kamo sharing with them her inspirations, recent experiences of the Matariki holiday and her hopes and aspirations for future Matariki. Joining her on stage was Victoria ‘Tori’ Campbell, Kāi Tahu te Reo Māori advocate, Astronomer and storyteller. Campbell, like Kamo, had not grown up celebrating Matariki, but rather through the support and encouragement of tribal elder Alva Kapa, became immersed in tribal pūrākau.This eventually led to her meeting Mātāmua ten years ago in Murihiku while undertaking his research. Campbell quickly made connections between the pūrākau she knew and the tātai arorangi kōrero of Mātāmua. Her work with Mātāmua has led her to being appointed as not only the Kāi Tahu representative to the Matariki Advisory Group which has provided guidance to the Government on the formation of New Zealand’s first indigenous statute holiday; But also an advisor to the Dark Sky Project at Otehīwai | Mount John, Takapō (Tekapō) and presenter for the Aotearoa Astrotourism Academy.

The hour spent with these beautiful Māriekura was filled with insights of the important relationship between the stars and the environment; the value of Mātauranga Māori; thoughts related to the Matariki Holiday and aspirations to reignite our connection to the taiao-environment which has been lost due to the convenience of modern living. The latter perhaps the major reason knowledge like that of Matariki became relegated, finding no place in a western lifestyle. While some may have thought such knowledge was lost to time, Campbell notes that it is preserved with those who practice mahinga kai – traditional sustainable harvesting of natural resources. As she spoke with tribal fishers, weavers, gatherers who all recalled similar oral traditions that link to the stars, the moon and the taiao. Thus reinforcing Campbell’s belief in the importance of intergenerational knowledge transmission such as this. Campbell concluded that our disconnection to our environment has contributed to our inability to recognise issues in and with the environment where we live. She encouraged everyone to reconnect through not only growing our own gardens, but observing the environment around us. Taking note each time we pass an area of how it appears, the time of the year, what wildlife is present, how it smells. Thinking about how or what we could do to contribute to enhancing such areas. Campbell reiterated that this a responsibility for everyone not just Māori.

Miriama Kamo and Victoria Campbell - Matariki: Stories and Stars
Miriama Kamo and Victoria Campbell - Matariki: Stories and Stars

As the morning wore on the conversation turned to the Matariki holiday and the ceremony undertaken at Te Papa Tongarerewa to welcome Matariki. Kamo spoke of her attendance and to the link the book she co-authored with Mātāmua.She shared that while writing the book her Father passed away.Just prior to publishing, recognising the significance of the loss Kamo felt, Mātāmua offer her the space in the book that he would normally write his acknowledgements so that she could dedicate the book to her Father. During the ceremony at Te Papa Tongarerewa there came a point where Pōhutukawa, who tends to those who have become new stars, was addressed. This is the point when the names of those who had passed that year are recalled and acknowledged as new stars in the sky. Kamo took comfort in knowing her beloved Father was now among them watching down over her and her whānau.

While the conversation could have easily continued well into the afternoon, it was drawn to a close with aspirational thoughts and reminders from both Campbell and Kamo. That Matariki is an environmental indicator used by Māori to predict the environmental prosperity of the coming year. That Matariki is a time to reset, reflect, remember, connect and celebrate being together as a whānau – this does not require expense or extravagance but rather us just being present. That you don’t have to Māori to celebrate Matariki, it is a time for all of us. That there is nothing to fear from mātauranga Māori which is the practical application of different strands of knowledge woven together. 

Matariki Around the World – Matariki a cluster of stars, a cluster of stories, is a beautiful, well written book that has something for everyone, reminding us that all indigenous peoples throughout the world have oral traditions relating to this special cluster of stars. It is an easy read for both young and old, it something a whānau could read together as part of their Matariki celebrations. But don’t wait till then, go read it now.

My thanks to Nic Low and WORD with the support of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu for providing this opportunity to attend this session. Grateful thanks always to Miri and Tori for sharing their knowledge and experiences with us. E au tō moe Uncle Ray.

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