New Zealand High Commissioner Tui Dewes, centre, and staff celebrate Matariki Day. Photo: Supplied/22062601
New Zealand High Commission staff have hosted an inaugural Matariki Ball in line with Māori New Year becoming a national holiday in Aotearoa.
New Zealand High Commissioner to Cook Islands Tui Dewes, at the Friday evening event, said it had been a while since staff had hosted such a large gathering at Ngātipā, the official residence of Aotearoa New Zealand.
“And I think it was absolutely fitting that our
first event following Covid was to mark Matariki.
“For those who may not know, Matariki signals the
start of Māori New Year.
“And back home in Aotearoa, this is the first year it
was marked as an official public holiday.”
Dewes said observing Matariki was an ancient
practice, which, like many other cultural practices, was discontinued in Aotearoa
in the years following colonisation.
It was only in the 1990s, as part of the Māori Renaissance,
that it began to be celebrated more widely again, she said.
“And I personally love that it’s now a mainstream
holiday back home.
“I should acknowledge, though, that Matariki isn’t something
that was only traditionally observed by Māori.
“Since the earliest of times humans across the
world have looked to the stars, including Matariki, for understanding and
“In fact, they’ve found 20,000-year-old Palaeolithic
cave drawings in France, which are said to represent this same cluster of stars,
a constellation that is more commonly known throughout the world as the Pleiades.”
In ancient Greek, Pleiades means “the sailing ones”,
“Fitting for the Pacific because, as many in the
Cook Islands will be well-aware, in our part of the world this constellation
was among those used by our tīpuna, our ancestors, when navigating from central
Polynesia to Aotearoa.
“This important constellation was known by many
names throughout the Pacific – and include the very similar sounding: Makali’li,
Matali’li, Matali’ki, Matariri, and of course Matariki.
“Although there are differences in view as to what
Matariki actually means, in Aotearoa, many appear to accept it to be a shortened
version of the phrase: Ngā mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea - the eyes of Tāwhirimātea.
“This name has its origins in our creation story, following
the separation of the earth mother Papatūānuku from the sky father Ranginui by
their son and god of the forest Tānemahuta, the god of the wind Tāwhirimātea was
“After battling Tānemahuta and many of his other brothers,
he was finally beaten by Tūmutauenga – the god of war.
“Following his defeat, Tāwhirimātea is said to have
ripped out his eyes and thrown them to the sky – in an act of sorrowful love
towards his father and mother.”
His eyes were said to have created the nine stars
of Matariki: Pōhutukawa, Tupuānuku, Tupuārangi, Waitī, Waitā, Wapunārangi,
Ururangi, Hiwa-i-te-Rangi and Matariki, Dewes said.
“For ancient Māori, and for modern Aotearoa, the
rising of these nine stars, of Matariki, is seen as a time to reflect on the
past, to celebrate the present and to look to the future. It’s a time of renewal.
And in that respect, I think it was
really apt that the first large event we hosted since coming out of the shadow
of COVID was to mark Matariki.”
Dewes gave her “heartfelt congratulations” to those
who contributed to the Cook Islands’ “world-leading response” to Covid-19.
“Congratulations for all you’ve achieved in the
service of your country, your communities and your close loved ones,” she said.
“As the High Commissioner for Aotearoa New Zealand,
I am so proud of how our two countries have stood together over this difficult
time, and how we have grown even closer over these last two years.
“As we look beyond COVID, my country is keen to
continue partnering with the Cook Islands on your economic recovery; on your
efforts to improve education and health outcomes; on your delivery of resilient
infrastructure that also helps provide job opportunities; and on your response
to climate change.”
Dewes said the purpose of the Matariki Ball was not
just to mark the Māori New Year, but to celebrate all that New Zealand and the
Cook Islands had achieved together, and to look forward to “our shared future”.
“I wish everyone every happiness in the Māori New
Year ahead. Because as the whakataukī
goes: Matariki ki tua o ngā whetū –Matariki brings endless possibilities.
“Mānawatia a Matariki.”
Queen’s Representative Sir Tom Marsters,
accompanied by Lady Tuaine Marsters, also spoke at the ball – concluding with a
toast to Matariki and the long-standing, close ties between New Zealand and the
Cook Islands, ties which went all the way back to shared Māori ancestors.