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Matariki: Wellingtonians embrace Aotearoas new public holiday

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Wellingtonians were out in force throughout the region on Friday to celebrate Matariki as Aotearoa New Zealands first indigenous public holiday.
Crowds gathered in front of Te Papa Tongarewa in Te-Whanganui-a-Tara before dawn for the hautapu ceremony, where the steam from cooked kai made their way to the sky to nourish the atua (gods) above.

Te Papas new interactive exhibition about Matariki was non-stop in the day, as families flocked in and out with their tamariki, while people of differenet ages and ethnicities gathered in front of exhibits about the star cluster that marks the Mori New Year and what it means.


The Darnbrooke family recently moved from Wolverhampton in the UK to the Kpiti Coast. Parents David and Maud, who are both social workers, spent the day at the museum with their daughters, Isabella, 8, Elena, 7, and Ana, 6, to learn more about te ao Mori.


Maud Darnbrooke said the new public holiday gave them a base to know more, and its refreshing to see it as a person of African-Caribbean descent.

It has given us a grounding from where to start, and I think it's opened our eyes, she said. We have the carnivals and stuff like that in the UK, but a lot of people just think theyre just a type of parties. They dont actually see the cultural significance of why we have them.

'These moments in time are the essence of our nationhood,' Sir Pou Temara said during an event marking Matariki at Te Papa in Wellington.

We find Matariki is quite good because the whole community has embraced it.

Ana liked the exhibition because there were lots of things, like the waka or fishing hooks, that were featured on her favourite film, Moana.

84-year-old Pare Albrett was also at Te Papa with her whnau of five, having driven into Wellington from Masterton for the day. She never celebrated Matariki before and never thought she would see it become a holiday, but shes enjoying to see all the things happening.

This is really great. Im having fun.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff
Crowds gathered in front of Te Papa Tongarewa in the cold for the hautapu ceremony.

Sue Leese is from Hawkes Bay and admitted she knew nothing about Matariki before it was set up as a public holiday, but its something shes being learning about across the past few months.

I think it's a lovely way of centring it [as] the beginning of the new year was the new year that we normally have has lost with Christmas it doesnt sort of have that significance for me, she said.

There are some people who are still a bit skeptical of having another public holiday but I'm very proud to be part of it today in Wellington.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at Te Papa to mark Matariki, a historic moment that 'unites us under the stars of Aotearoa'

Mori academic Sir Pou Temara, considered an authority on whakapapa and karakia, said after the hautapu ceremony that Matariki is a time to honour our ancestors, to look to the future and dream about a brighter tomorrow for all of us who call this country home.

He also said weaving the principles of Matariki into New Zealands culture reflected who we are as a people.

In her speech, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Matariki offered New Zealanders a space where there is room for us all, and the public holiday should not divide us by Mori ancestry but rather unites us under the stars of Aotearoa.

It demonstrates the generosity of the indigenous people of New Zealand, to share knowledge, culture and history, she said.

Te Papa also holds other free programmes throughout next week to celebrate the first Matariki public holiday, including guided tours, concerts, wnanga, and a special lunch menu at its cafe.

The Dominion Post
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