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Matariki events to feed the soul this winter

19 May 2016

Whitireia performing arts dancer on Te Marae


Whitireia performing arts dancer on Te Marae, 2016. Photograph by Norm Heke. Te Papa

Celebrations for Matariki, the Māori New Year, kick off across Wellington’s galleries and museums on 2 June this year.

This year’s Matariki Wellington Festival combines food, whānau, fine art and photography in a single month-long mid-winter celebration.

A Matariki-inspired food day with well-known local and national chefs, art exhibitions from revered artists, and a spectacular mash-up of contemporary dance and kapa haka, are among highlights this year.

Recent year’s festival favourites are returning, including the popular Art Night bus tour around six of Wellington region’s galleries, and the Kaumātua Kapa Haka – a showcase of some of New Zealand’s most experienced entertainers.  

Te Papa’s Charles Royal says Matariki celebrations in Wellington are growing in number and participation every year.

“The Matariki Wellington Festival helps to revitalise customary Māori knowledge and art forms and to spark new creativity. You’ll see kapa haka mixed up with modern music, or a dazzling light show at a marae.

“Matariki is about reconnecting with the natural world around us, and it’s also a way for people to come into contact with Māori culture in a really positive and entertaining way.”

During the festival Wellington iwi Ngāti Toa will run a weekend of story-telling, tours and music.

Star-gazing, family concerts, children’s concerts, and exhibitions of weaving, photography, and landscape painting complete the offering.

The full programme of over 35 events and six exhibitions is available from matarikiwellington.org

The Matariki Wellington Festival gratefully acknowledges the support of the Wellington Amenities Fund.


Matariki Wellington Festival highlights
2 June – 26 June, 2016

Art Night: Pō Whakaatu Toi
Join the festivities at special late night openings at galleries across the Wellington region, connected by the free Art Night bus.
City Gallery Wellington, Te Papa, Pātaka, the Dowse, Expressions and Mahara Gallery, 2 June, 5pm – 10pm, free

Tū Meke kapahaka
Twenty wonderful kaumātua from Kapiti performing for all ages.
Mahara Gallery, Waikanae, 7 June, 11am – 12 noon, free

Dawn viewing from Mt Victoria
Using portable telescopes, astronomers from Space Place at Carter Observatory will give participants the opportunity to get a real-time experience of Matariki rising.
18 June, 5am – 7am, free

Te Reo o te Marama: The Voice of the Moon
Enjoy a concert for the whole family that weaves the power of music and the written word together in a homage to the moon. 
Wellington Museum (formerly Museum of City and Sea), 16 June, 6pm – 7pm and 8pm – 9pm, koha

Ngā Kai o Matariki - food that cares
Keep the day free to celebrate all things kai (food). See how to prepare tasty Matariki-inspired food, try samples, and learn how to grow kai traditionally.
Te Papa, Wellington, 19 June, 11am – 4pm, free

OMG: Māori Gods of the 21st Century photography exhibition
Join artist Norm Heke as he shares insights into his show featuring large-scale 3D portraits of figures from Māori mythology.
Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment, Upper Hutt, 19 June, 1pm – 2pm, free

Opening of Matakite - Panoramic visions by John Walsh
The exhibition Matakite brings together the most outstanding large scale landscape paintings artist John Walsh has produced over the last two decades. The exhibition opening will be followed by a talk from the artist at 2.45pm.
Pātaka Art + Museum, Porirua, 19 June, 2pm – 4.30pm, free

City Gallery, ANZ Family Day
Celebrate Matariki with a day of free, fun art activities for the whole whanau. Take part in a dance workshop, check out a collection of short films, make your own star weaving, and join us for a kid-friendly exhibition tour.
City Gallery, Wellington, Sunday 19 June, 11am – 4pm, free

Opening of Legacy: The Art of Rangi Hetet and Erenora Puketapu-Hetet
Legacy shares the stories of two exceptional artists, Rangi Hetet (1937 - ) and Erenora Puketapu Hetet (1941-2006) and their creative partnership in Māori art. Opening day will include hands-on workshops, weaving demonstrations and performances throughout the day.
The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, all day 26 June, free       


Media contact

Jenny Bridgen, Senior Communications Advisor, Te Papa,

029 601 0010


Note to editors: What is Matariki?

Matariki is the Māori name for the star cluster known as the Pleiades. Traditionally, it appears just before dawn in late May or early June each year, signalling the start of the Māori New Year and the beginning of the sun’s ‘return’.

The appearance of Matariki was traditionally accompanied by celebrations of various kinds. As Matariki appears in the depths of winter, it was natural for families to retire to their homes and spend the long nights either in learning activities (whare wānanga) or in entertaining one another (whare tapere). As Matariki marked the end of the harvest; feasting was a feature of Marariki celebrations, as was recalling and remembering those who had passed in the previous year.

Matariki today

The Māori New Year is becoming an annual event of national significance. Matariki celebrates an indigenous worldview, reminding us of natural ways of marking the passage of time. It helps to revitalise customary knowledge and art forms and offers a time for New Zealanders to connect with the natural world.