Activity: Where did the name Matariki come from?

Tell the pūrākau of Matariki through dramatic storytelling activities.

The well-known ethnologist Elsdon Best translated Matariki as ‘little eyes’ or ‘small eyes’ (mata = eye, riki = small). These interpretations, however, have no connection to Māori understandings of cosmology. The name actually comes from the phrase ‘Ngā mata o te ariki Tāwhirimātea’ or ‘the eyes of the god Tāwhirimātea’.

Make meaning

Read the pūrākau below aloud to your ākonga:

After Tāne separated the sky, Ranginui, from the earth, Papatūānuku, Tāwhirimātea waged war. He was angry and wanted his parents to remain together. He battled with all of his brothers until he was defeated by Tūmatauenga, the Māori god of warfare and mankind.

In a display of rage against his brothers and a sign of love for his father, Tāwhirimātea plucked out his eyes, crushed them in his hands and threw them into the sky where they stuck to his father’s chest and became the stars of Matariki. This is why Tāwhirimātea is the blind god, feeling his way around the sky and bringing winds from different directions.

Ask ākonga to watch the video, and to try to notice the main parts of the pūrākau.

Interpret and create using the arts

Divide ākonga into small groups, and ask them to summarise the pūrākau into six statements. Once groups have a decided what the six main plot points of the pūrākau are, they could:

  • divide an A4 page into six squares and draw a comic strip or illustrate one scene each for a gallery wall of the pūrākau

  • create six freeze frames or even six small dramatic scenes to tell the pūrākau through dance or drama

  • compose a soundscape to reflect the story of the pūrākau

  • rewrite the pūrākau as a children’s storybook, complete with illustrations.