The evolution of Matariki at Te Papa

Matariki is a midwinter event that provides diverse New Zealanders with an enjoyable and positive way to engage with, learn about, and experience aspects of Māori culture.

Similarly, Māori artists and creatives look forward to Matariki as it is one of the few regularly occurring events throughout New Zealand where Māori arts, music, and storytelling are continuously engaged with and supported. 

Matariki celebrations at Te Papa

The annual Matariki celebrations at Te Papa first took place in 2001.

Since that time – over a period of some 16 years – we have taken a leadership role in evolving the modern day Matariki celebration.

These celebrations have taken many forms including storytelling, dance, music, Māori cuisine, lectures, seminars, celebratory dinners, and much more.

Our Matariki celebrations have also been supported by education resources and online information about Matariki.

Since 2001, Matariki has steadily grown in stature and today it’s well-known throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Almost every community in the country marks and celebrates Matariki in some way and it’s a very popular topic of study in our schools.

It’s primed to be uplifted even further as a distinctive Aotearoa-New Zealand cultural event and expression.

Matariki Rising: An Indigenous Event of National Identity

In 2016, Te Papa began developing a bold, new plan to elevate Matariki to be ‘an indigenous event of national identity’.

We believe that Matariki can be strengthened to become a true and distinctive Aotearoa-New Zealand cultural event that can help meet the need for New Zealand to have its own events of cultural and national significance.

We believe that, in time, it should find its place among significant cultural events and celebrations throughout the world such as the running of the bulls in Spain, the Chinese Lantern Festival, the Day of the Dead in Mexico, and the blossom festival of Japan (to name just a few).

People light tea lights and put them on the pond outside of Te Papa


People light tea lights and put them on the pond outside of Te Papa, 2017. Te Papa

Our goals

Our goal is to create an enduring cultural event, an event that finds its way into the hearts and minds of diverse New Zealanders and become part of the legacy of what it means to be a New Zealander.

In pursuing this goal, we has also articulated the following objectives:

  • Deepening the connection with indigenous knowledge and indigeneity
  • Transforming the central Matariki event so that it’s attractive and welcoming to diverse audiences and communities
  • Moving the event from being a general mid-winter celebration of Māori culture to a specifically themed event about national identity and Matariki itself
  • Positioning ‘renewal’ as the theme and purpose of the event overall
  • Articulating three sub-themes:
    • Whānau+Rēhia: Families and fun, entertainment
    • Whānau+Ako: Families and learning
    • Whānau+Kai: Families and food

We want to create and sustain a beautiful and inspiring cultural event that honours and celebrates who we are and our island home; and celebrates and honours the year just passed and offer opportunities to express our hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future.