Te Puke’s celestial festival

Two-day event focuses on education and the community

Stuart Whitaker






All eyes will be on the sky today and tomorrow as Te Puke celebrates Matariki. Celebrations begin today at an educational day — Te K¯ıwai Mau¯ı — with a community day — Te K¯ıwai Katau — tomorrow. Both are centred on Jubilee Park. Held for the first time in 2021, after a pandemicenforced cancellation in 2020, the local celebration draws its name from the story of Whakaotirangi who had the role of securing the kumara plants brought from Hawaiki to Aotearoa in a kete on the Te Arawa waka. The kaupapa of the festival is led by community leaders Kassie Ellis as community liaison, Tatai Takuira-mita, Ka¯hui Ako across-school leader and deputy principal at Fairhaven School, and Ma¯ori policy and engagement adviser Sam Hema from Hemasphere Ltd together with the hapori whanaui me nga¯ tangata whenua. Organisers have had more time to put the festival together this year, and Kassie says they are “a bit better prepared”. “We’ve been fortunate with our funders. There’s been a lot more community groups and businesses giving because they understand the value of it. “Last year it was all done in a bit of a hurry and with Covid hanging around, but people can still see the concept and value of it from last year.” Matariki being marked with a public holiday for the first time has also enhanced the importance celebrations. “Making it a public holiday gives it an extra significance and it’s given us that extra push to get it right, do it better and do it bigger, and it’s given it more meaning,” says Kassie. Sam says the public holiday “validates what we already know in te ao Ma¯ori, that it is an important time. It validates of the it by the nation getting behind it and recognising that. “It allows Aotearoa to consider ways that we are unique — things that we can celebrate that are unique to our land. If you look at Christmas, and you look at Easter, they’re not unique, they are worldwide. When we celebrate something it should be unique — and that’s what it validates — it’s something that’s unique to the South Pacific.” He says he believes the significance of Matariki is only going to increase. “The future looks good — and also, for Ma¯ ori, it allows us to share a little bit more about what we know with the rest of Aotearoa.” Sam describes the celebration as two days jam-packed with education, fun and culture. “What we are inviting the community to do is to join us again to celebrate.” There will a range of stalls from food to health providers, a Ka¯hui Ako (community of learning) tent where the results of today’s workshops will be on display and a Department of Conservation stall. There will be two stages — one for kapa haka and one for music — with a number of schools’ kapa haka groups performing and musicians and groups including Sam’s band the Matariki Allstars, Nga¯ Tauira Reo Ma¯ori Choir and Jo’el Komene’s taonga pu¯oro (traditional Ma¯ori instruments). A karakia will start tomorrow’s celebrations at 10am. Headlining and due on stage around 3pm tomorrow will be Ardijah. ● For more on Te Puke’s Matariki celebrations, see page 3.