Matariki, a tradition handed down through generations

Tena koutou katoa,

Recently a member of the public wrote and asked why the Museum is celebrating Matariki, which they described as “a modern invention”.

I replied that Matariki is not a modern invention, it is a tradition that has been handed down through generations. It has been suppressed for a time, but people now feel more liberated, free to participate and able to choose connectedness and to learn more about a wide range of points of view.

I wrote: “Our month-long programme illuminates cultural and social facets and reflects scientific origins in the way-finding experiences of early peoples. Our literature invites people to explore themes and activities and to consider the ways that people pass on and sustain aspects of their culture and heritage; an opportunity for communities to come together to tell stories, sing, dance and do creative work; spreading understanding about the customs and practices of New Zealand’s first settlers; exploring the consequences of the migration of peoples and ideas…….”

One of the Museum’s jobs is to give people access to collections, to enable interchange and encourage the exploration of themes. Our Matariki programme just does that and has been has been attracting many people.

Wananga Maunga: Hikoi up Maunga Whau (Mt Eden)

Wananga Maunga: Hikoi up Maunga Whau (Mt Eden)


For example, in the first of our series of wananga ‘beyond the walls’, people joined us up Maunga Whau (Mt Eden) to hear perspectives on what our mountains represent, with colourful inputs from archaeologist Louise Furey, tangata whenua  Pita Turei and volcanologist Jan Lindsay.

Last Saturday the focus shifted to Takaparawha (Bastion Point), where we explored native plant regeneration and learned about medicinal properties of native flora and fauna, with inspiration from botanist Ewen Cameron, tangata whenua and horticulturalist Char Wiapo and rongoa specialist Rob McGowan.

Ewen made the important point that the Museum’s collections and their records connect people and knowledge across generations. In this case, it was the methodical work to create the herbarium by the distinguished past Museum director, Thomas Cheeseman (who was secretary of the Museum Institute and Curator for almost 50 years until his death in 1923). His work now enables people to know what was growing at Orakei in times before urbanisation and in turn to plan a restoration that suits the land, the birds, the plants and the people who make their home there; whakamana, nga taonga tuku iho, hei whakataki i nga ra ki muri … honouring the past, embracing the present, guiding our future.

Grass specimens Thomas Cheesman (pictured) collected at Orakei Point in Oct 1878.

Grass specimens Thomas Cheesman (pictured) collected at Orakei Point in Oct 1878.

This coming Saturday more of our audience will have an opportunity to participate in the Wananga Puoro, led by Curator Maori Chanel Clarke and Taumata member Bernard Makoare around Auckland Zoo and the newly opened Te Wao Nui a Tane native bird sanctuary.