Hundreds gather at Te Puia to honour the stars of Matariki

The atmosphere was thick with emotion at Te Puia this morning as more than 500 locals gathered in the Whakarewarewa Valley to bear witness to a traditional hautapu ceremony celebrating Matariki.

A collaboration between Te Puia | NZMACI and Te Arawa Whānau Ora and Healthy Families Rotorua, the hautapu ceremony, conducted by Te Rāngai Kawa – Te Tokotoru a Manawakotokoto, was aligned with the natural timings of te taiao (environment).

NZMACI General Manager, Eraia Kiel, says it was a beautiful morning celebrating Matariki and a privilege to share the special kaupapa with the community.

“Matariki is a time to reflect on the year that has been, what’s important to us, and to spend time with whānau.

“During Matariki, we honour our loved ones who have passed, saying their names and sending their spirits off on a journey to become stars in the sky.

“It was special to see people who hadn’t experienced a hautapu ceremony before, or who haven’t celebrated Matariki, join us in acknowledging the rising of Matariki, and the start of the Māori New Year.”

The ceremony was free to attend, with more than 500 people from a range of local schools, multicultural groups, and local iwi in attendance.

NZMACI Pou Tāhu, Te Waata Cribb, says it was touching to be able to share the traditional hautapu ceremony with the community.

“It was a time for us all to come together, be in sync with nature and disconnect from physical materials in order to reconnect with our taiao.

“As part of the hautapu ceremony, we cooked kai and sent the steam from it up to the sky as an offering of gratitude for the year before.

“The ancient kumara used for the ceremony was a variety that came on the first Te Arawa waka with our tūpuna, and was stored traditionally in a cave, in the lead-up to Matariki.”

He said the ceremony was a huge success and a proud moment for the organisers.

“It is beautiful to see our culture and our traditions embraced by all New Zealanders and reminds us of the special community we live in.”

Te Arawa Whānau Ora and Healthy Families Rotorua Lead Systems Innovator, Pirihira Whata, says the level of public interest in the event reinforces the special role traditional ceremonies, like hautapu, have in our communities.

“We had whānau reaching out personally, asking to attend, so they could farewell their loved ones in this special way.

“It goes to show how important connecting to this way of life really is for everyone, regardless of ethnicity. It’s a positive way we can all come together to grieve, connect and look to our future.”