Popular Matariki ritual returns to Te Papa for two nights

Matariki at Te Papa includes a special performance from the NZSO, the iconic annual kapa haka competition, and the museum’s newly-created Matariki community ritual.

Over the last two years Te Papa’s community storytelling ritual has drawn hundreds of people to gather at its fireside. This year the ritual will run over two nights, to meet the demand from Wellingtonians.

The ritual events will begin with the lighting of a fire and retelling the Māori creation story and the story of Tāne. Visitors will be invited to place lights on the pond as an act to farewell loved ones and the year that has passed.

Sometimes called the Māori New Year, Matariki is celebrated when the star cluster known as Matariki rises in the sky during winter.

Te Papa has marked Matariki for many years, and plays an important role in revitalising interest in the event.

Dr Charles Royal, Creative Director of Te Papa’s Matariki programme, says there is a growing interest in Matariki.

“Last year Te Papa’s Matariki ritual was incredibly well attended. This year we are delighted to present the ritual over two nights; to welcome more people to celebrate the appearance of Matariki,” says Dr Royal.

Dr Royal says that the themes of Matariki are universal. It is a time of renewal, a time to gather with family and friends, and a time to acknowledge those who have passed in the year gone by.

The Te Papa programme includes the iconic celebration of haka and waiata, Taikura Kapa Haka, performed by senior Māori performing artists from around Aotearoa New Zealand. The free event will be held on Sat 22 Jun and Sun 23 Jun.

“Taikura Kapa Haka is an impressive spectacle and it is always a highly anticipated showcase of some of New Zealand’s most experienced entertainers,” Dr Royal says.

On Sun 16 Jun, the rising stars of Te Papa iwi in residence, Rongowhakaata, will present two kapa haka performances for Matariki.

“Matariki is a celebration that is unique to New Zealand and provides an opportunity to come together, to acknowledge who we are, to express love for these islands that we call our home and foster quality relationships between each other and the natural world,” says Dr Royal.


What is Matariki?

Matariki signals the Māori New Year. It is a time of renewal and celebration in New Zealand that begins with the rising of the Matariki star cluster (the Pleiades or Seven Sisters).

Matariki is a star cluster which appears in the night sky during mid-winter. According to the Maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), the reappearance of Matariki, brings the old lunar year to a close and marks the beginning of the New Year. Hence, Matariki is associated with the Māori New Year.

Traditionally, festivities were conducted to celebrate Matariki, they followed the harvesting of crops when the pātaka (food storehouses) were full, freeing up time for family and leisure.

These festivities included the lighting of ritual fires, the making of offerings, and celebrations of various kinds to farewell the dead, to honour ancestors, and to celebrate life.

Tohunga (spiritual expert) looked to the Matariki star cluster to find out how abundant the upcoming year’s harvest would be. Bright, clear stars promised a warm and successful season. Hazy stars, however, warned of cold weather and poor crops.

Read more about Matariki here

Te Papa Matariki events

Matariki Ritual Matariki Hika Ahi

When: Friday 14 June and Saturday 15 June 2019, 7.00pm–8.30pm
Where: Red Gates, to the left of the main entrance. If weather is bad the ritual will move inside.
Free event

Both evenings run the same programme.

The Matariki ritual will begin with the lighting of a fire and a retelling of the Māori creation story and the story of Tāne. There will be a recitation of the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar) and the appearance of Matariki. Visitors will be invited to place lights on the pond as an act to farewell loved ones and the year that has passed.

The story of Matariki will be recounted culminating in Hiwa-i-te-rangi, the star within Matariki towards which hopes and aspirations for the New Year are directed. You will be invited to write down and express your hopes and dreams, and place them in a community basket.

Free soup and rolls will be provided.

Taikura Kapa Haka 2019

When: Saturday 22 June – Sunday 23 Jun 2019, 10.00am–4.30pm/ Doors will be open from 9.30am.
Where: Soundings Theatre, Level 2
Free event

A celebration of haka and waiata, performed by senior Māori performing artists from around Aotearoa New Zealand on Saturday and Sunday.

NZSO Matariki Concert

When: Saturday 15 Jun 2019, 12.00pm–1.00pm
Where: Wellington Foyer, Level 2
Free event

The programme opens with George Morton’s arrangement of Uranus from Gustav Holst’s The Planets, then New Zealand composer Gillian Whitehead’s Resurgences, a work that reflects on the moon’s influence on the tides and wider natural world.

Leonie Holmes’ Solstice follows, written at the time of the winter solstice and evoking the cold earth and the rituals that have been performed through the ages to encourage the coming of sunrise, warmth, light, and rebirth.

Closing out the concert is Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 From the New World, a work influenced by the native cultures the composer experienced when he travelled to America in the 1890s. Its fourth and final movement is a rousing and exciting finale.

Ngā Whetū o Rongowhakaata: Kapa Haka for Matariki

When: Sunday 16 Jun 2019, 12.00pm–3.30pm
Where: Te Hau ki Tūranga, Level 4
Free event

The rising stars of Te Papa iwi in residence, Rongowhakaata, present two kapa haka performances at Te Hau ki Tūranga for Matariki. The young generation of Rongowhakaata iwi tribe in Wellington, share their teachings and skills of home through haka and waiata.

Te Papa Pou Tikanga from Rongowhakaata will also join them in waiata and kōrero about the whare and Rongowhakaata Matariki celebrations.

Matariki Storytelling with Te Reo Wainene o Tua

When: Sunday 16 Jun 2019, 1.30pm–2.30pm
Where: Te Marae, Level 4
Free event

Te Reo Wainene o Tua | The Sweet Story of Yesteryear are a te reo Māori storytelling collective. Their kaupapa (mission) is to revitalise the oral traditions of their ancestors and normalise te reo Māori. Join them for a captivating bilingual session suitable for tamariki and adults.


Dropbox images here

Media contact

For media interested in attending the events, please contact Ellie Campbell.

Ellie Campbell, Senior Communications Adviser
029 601 0120

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Te Puru o Tāmaki Taikura, Taikura Kapa Haka, 2018. Te Papa