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Matariki: Wikis


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Matariki, the Māori name for the Pleiades (pictured).

In the Māori language Matariki is the name of the Pleiades star cluster, which was important for agriculture in establishing the correct time to plant crops. There are two explanations of the name Matariki: firstly, mata-riki (small eyes) or mata-ariki (Eyes of God). The constellation is also believed to have been used by navigators.

The Matariki star cluster contains more than 1000 stars, but only seven to nine can be seen by naked eye in the night sky.

The first rising of the Pleiades and of Rigel (Puanga in Māori) occurs just prior to sunrise in late May or early June, and this indicates that the old year has ended and the new year has begun. The actual time for celebrating Matariki varies, depending on the iwi (tribe or clan). Some iwi celebrate it immediately. Others wait until the rising of the next full moon, or alternatively the dawn of the next new moon. It has become common practice for various private and public institutions to celebrate Matariki over the period of a week or month anywhere from early June to late July. Other iwi used the rising of Rigel in a similar way.

In traditional times, Matariki was a season to celebrate and to prepare the ground for the coming year. Offerings of the produce of the land were made to the gods, including Rongo, god of cultivated food. This time of the year was also a good time to instruct young people in the lore of the land and the forest. In addition, certain birds and fish were especially easy to harvest at this time.

In Hawaii, the festival is known as Makaliʻi.


National holiday proposals

From time to time, there have been proposals to make Matariki an official holiday in New Zealand. In 2001, The Māori Language Commission "began to reclaim Matariki, or Aotearoa Pacific New Year, as an important focus for Māori language regeneration. The commission is spearheading a campaign to elevate Matariki into an iconic national event as part of a nationwide Māori language information programme, "Kōrero Māori", and intends to develop relationships and partnerships in order to co-ordinate and share activities with other stakeholders while complementing existing events".[1]

In June 2009 Maori Party MP Rahui Katene was successful in having her member's bill 'Te Ra o Matariki Bill/Matariki Day Bill' drawn from the ballot. The Bill would have fixed the date of a public holiday using the New Moon in June [2] however this was later changed to the new moon of the helical rising of Matariki when the bill was drawn a month later and set down for introduction into parliament.[3]

Mayor of Waitakere City Bob Harvey supported the call to make Matariki a public holiday to replace Queen's Birthday,[4] along with the Republican Movement, which found none of New Zealand's local authorities held celebrations for Queen's Birthday, but many held celebrations for Matariki.[5] However, the Bill was voted down at its first reading.[6]

Matariki (2010 Film)

An upcoming New Zealand film set in Otara, South Auckland. Starring: Sara Wiseman, Susana Tang, Alix Bushnell, and Jason Wu. Directed by Michael Bennett


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