Matariki captures the imagination

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2014
timaru matariki maori new year cheynese king akena frisby
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ

LIGHTING THE NIGHT: Cheynese King, left, and Akena Frisby celebrate Maori New Year Matariki (eyes of God) at the Timaru Botanical gardens on Saturday.

timaru matariki
JOHN BISSET/ Fairfax NZ
NEW YEAR: Izzie Power, 5, brightens up the Timaru Botanical Gardens Matariki Festival of Light.

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The Timaru Botannical Gardens were lit up on Saturday night as more than 500 people celebrated Matariki, the Maori new year, with handmade lanterns.

Traditionally for Maori it was a time of remembering those who had passed away, to get together with whanau and share knowledge around the time the new moon rises in the middle of winter.

Organised by Te Ana Rock Art and Visitor Centre, lantern making programmes sent to South Canterbury schools leading up to the event ensured plenty of lanterns.

Te Ana curator Amanda Symon said it was the first time it had been held in the gardens. A night walk through the pathways was illuminated by light sculptures and each child was given a glow stick on entry. Arowhenua Maori School pupils performed a haka and waiata at the band rotunda.

Symon said there was a growing appreciation of Maori culture and Matariki was another element of that. "It captures the imagination. It's a coming together of whanau and the community," she said.

A few of the lanterns were released but a slight breeze caused them to get stuck in trees so the rest were grounded. "It was great to see the community come to an event like this."

Though the celebration of the new year is pan-tribal, Symon said iwi had varying associations or times they marked Matariki.

For North Island Maori it was a time of calculating planting when the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, in the Taurus constellation was first seen at dawn. For the South Island tribes it was celebrated at the first new moon after Puaka, the Rigel star in the Orion, was seen. Puaka is the intense blue star on the handle side of the saucepan-shaped constellation.

It was hoped celebrating Matariki at the botannical gardens would become an annual fixture.

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- The Timaru Herald

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