Puanga star's navigational role highlighted

Last updated 05:00 21/06/2014

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Most people might look to the sky for inspiration, but for ancient Maori it also helped them navigate their world.

And it is a tradition Nga Rauru's Toiora Hawira would like to see rekindled and continued by the younger generation.

The 21-year-old spoke to a crowd of about 150 adults and children, including three school groups, in Waverley yesterday as part of a event organised to celebrate Puanga. The Puanga star is believed to mark the beginning of the Maori New Year for Taranaki iwi. Sometimes known as Matariki, the star constellation was used historically for navigational purposes and for other activities like harvesting, planting and fishing.

Hawira told the audience he had travelled on waka where the crew used star constellations to chart their journey.

He said he was privileged to have travelled the same way his ancestors had.

"It's a really important part of our culture and shouldn't be lost," he said.

Hawira, who went on his first trip at 15, has been on several trips since, including a complete circumnavigation of Aotearoa.

One of the longest trips he took lasted 43 days, when he and a crew travelled from Auckland to New Caledonia.

He said learning about things like Puanga provided a way for people, especially youth, to learn more about Maori history.

"It's a way for rangatahi to engage with their culture," he said.

The event, held at the Waverley Community Centre, is one of several that have been held around Taranaki to mark Puanga, including festivities held at Parihaka last weekend.

Nga Rauru's Nan Pirikahu-Smith, who works for health organisation Te Oranganui, said she had organised two other events similar to the one held in Waverley. Along with Hawira's presentation, there was a kapahaka performance and kai provided to those who attended.

Puanga celebrations continue in South Taranaki this coming week with an art exhibition at Hawera's Lysaght Watt Gallery that runs until June 27. The Hawera Astronomical Society is also inviting people to view the star itself, weather permitting, from 6am on June 28.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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