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Tai Tokerau/Northland gets star-struck with 50 Matariki events

May 22, 2007
Tai Tokerau/Northland gets star-struck with 50 Matariki events

By Jacquie Walters

In June Tai Tokerau/Northland celebrates Matariki, a star-turn in the region which stretches from Auckland north to Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island of New Zealand.

Matariki is the Maori name for a cluster of stars that is visible with the naked eye in June/July each year. Traditionally, the first new moon following the sighting of Matariki in the pre-dawn sky heralds the beginning of the New Year.

A particular highlight of this years Matariki celebrations occurs at dawn on June 16, the day when Matariki is first visible to the naked eye this year. This year Matariki is visible on June 16th and New Years Day is on June 17th.

A new sculpture by Manos Nathan will be unveiled at the Dargaville I-Site. The sculpture, called He Tohu O Nga Hau E Wha has been commissioned by Tai Tokerau Maori and Cultural Tourism Association and the Kaipara District Council for Matariki.

The region is set to enjoy over90 confirmed Matariki events. Matariki is a time to celebrate the abundance of food that has been stored for winter, a time to honour those who are no longer with us, and a time to celebrate new beginnings.

Matariki events to be held in Tai Tokerau during June include art exhibitions, star gazing, wananga/workshops, cultural tours, museum displays, carving and kete making competitions.

At Astronomy Adventures in Baylys Beach tours are on every day and astronomer Deborah Hambly gives you a first hand look at the spectacular winter night sky. She has a Maori star compass painted on the floor of the observatory. The compass glows in the dark and demonstrates the passage of Matariki through the seasons.

The Waitangi Trust will be holding its Celestial Navigation Tour on Saturday, June 9th at 7:30pm.

This is a unique opportunity to hear experienced guides talking about navigation from a traditional perspective and how closely aligned Maori navigational methods are with non-Maori methods.

The role of the natural world in the oceanic journeys of Maori will be discussed. Matariki and its significance to Maori will be a cornerstone of the evenings presentation. There is a $12 charge for adults. Children under 14 can join the tour for free.

Pottery by local artist Colleen Urlich
Pottery by local artist Colleen Urlich

Take warm clothing and a torch. Meet at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds promptly at 7:30pm.

Whangarei Observatory is holding its monthly open night on Saturday, June 23. Visitors see the craters of the moon and hear about the night sky. 6pm start. $5 per adult of $10 for a family. (Group tours of up to 45 children are also available for schools.

Paihia hosts a large exhibition of works from Northland artists, carvers, weavers, photographers, and glass artists with a Matariki theme in the Waitaha Room at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort Bay of Islands. The exhibition opens on June 1st and runs until June 4th, from 10am-5pm each day.

Village Arts in Kohukohu is holding an exhibition of works by Maori artists and selected others entitled Matariki:Hokianga from June 2nd-24th.

Art Upstairs in Kerikeri are holding an exhibition of five artists work inspired by Matariki. Kawakawa Creative Arts will be exhibiting themed pieces around Matariki. The multinational collective of artists at Origin Gallery in Kerikeri will also be displaying works inspired by Matariki.

Kaan Zamaan Gallery at 373 Kerikeri Rd, Kerikeri will hold their annual Matariki exhibition from June 15th 23rd. There will be an opening preview on June 15th from 4-6pm.

The exhibition will include painters, potters and weavers including artists such as Dulcie Draper, Mike Freeman, Elif Halford, Valerie Hunton, Fran Leitch, Kay McGowan, Erik Montaigne, Mike Nettmann, Julia Reinholt, Paul Samson, Bill Sellers, Raewyn Smith, Sandra Thompson, Minhal Al Halabi, Hugh McKechnie and Hone Tiatoa.

The Porcine Gallery in the Piggery Bookshop in Whangarei will be having a multimedia exhibition of local Maori artists work. The gallery and bookshop are open seven days.

The Whangarei Art Museum in Rose Gardens, Water St, Whangarei will be holding three exhibitions featuring prominent Tai Tokerau women artists in three different media. The Matariki and Kowhaiwhai exhibition will showcase recent paintings by Kura Te Waru Rewiri. This is the first of a new exhibition series profiling iwi in the Whangarei District. The curator is Scott Pothan.

The second exhibition is Bloodlines/Whakapapa a print installation by Faith McManus. The third exhibition is Lapita Connection' An Exploration of Recent Ceramic Works by Colleen Waata Urlich. The exhibitions run from June 18 to Aug 12.

The Whangarei Art Museum will also host the book launch of Let Rocks Sing Waka and Wave, A Journey by Scott Pothan and the photographic exhibition that accompanies this bi-cultural project in Whangarei, commissioned by the Whangarei Art Museum. The museum is open from 10am -4pm weekdays and 12pm-4pm weekends.

On tour at Waitangi Treaty Grounds courtesy Destination Northlands
On tour at Waitangi Treaty Grounds courtesy Destination Northlands

E-North Gallery behind the Old Library at 7a Rust Ave, Whangarei will feature an exhibition of an eclectic mix of artworks created by students from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Te Rawhiti Roa.

The works acknowledge the cultural tradition of Te Iwi Maori interwoven with the students' own worldview. The exhibition runs from May 28-June 29. The gallery is open 10am-4pm weekdays

Helena Bay Gallery on Helena Bay Hill, on the Old Russell Road will have a Matariki exhibition up throughout June featuring Maori artists such as Theresa Reihana, Royda Winsolow, Coral Kaire, and Kerry Thompson. The gallery is open on weekends and by appointment.

The history and spirit of Matariki will come to life in Fernz Eco Tours. Russell-born Fern takes small groups of visitors on a day tour of the area enlightening them about her own whakapapa, the history of the area, and the rich cultural significance of Matariki.

Hone Mihaka of Taiamai Tours is also offering a unique and intimate introduction to Matariki.

Northland Children courtesy Destination Northland
Northland Children courtesy Destination Northland

He will provide a traditional Maori welcome and a hangi meal followed by a tour to the Ngawha hot pools. Hone will describe the spiritual and historical significance of Matariki and introduce guests to his ancient and powerful cultural history.

Be guided by Matariki and experience an intimate encounter with the giants of the forest - the kauri trees of the Waipoua Forest with Footprints Waipoua.

Learn how these trees are intertwined with the lives of local Maori and the important role they play in the eco-system that is the Waipoua Forest. The spiritual environment of the Waipoua Forest provides a natural stage for an unforgettable encounter with some of the largest remaining kauri trees in the world.

Footprints Waipoua departs from the Copthorne Hotel, Omapere. Opononi is the departure point for Crossings Hokianga - an historical cruise of the Hokianga harbour. Tours depart daily at 12:30pm on a four-hour trip that takes in Hokianga Heads (where Kupe entered the harbour), the famous Omapere sand dunes, Kohukohu, and the Mangungu Mission before heading back to Opononi.

Russell Museums Matariki exhibition features one of the towns early bicultural families. Samuel Stephenson was one of Russell/Kororarekas, early merchant and traders arriving in the 1830s.

He married Ada Charlotte Macauliffe, also known as Hira Moewaka, from the Kapotai hapu at Waikare. They went on to have 14 children who form an important part of Russell and the Norths history. There are many descendants still in the area today. The exhibition will be in place from mid-June to mid-August.

Whangarei Museum will hold Matariki lectures on Saturday, June 15th and Saturday June 29 from 11am-12pm and 1pm-2pm.

For those who want to get creative themselves there are workshops on kite making and flying and kete making. Kite specialist Harko Brown of He Manu o Aotearoa will be running two workshops over the Queens Birthday weekend.

The first on Saturday, June 2nd will be in the Waitaha Conference Room at the Copthorne Hotel in Paihia. The second workshop will be held at Just Imagine in Russell on Sunday, June 3. Kite making has a unique place in the commemoration of Matariki as kites are seen as a link between the earth and the heavens. Adults are encouraged to attend and work alongside their children.

Bronnie Harford will teach her workshop participants how to weave with harekeke (flax) to create their own kete on Sunday, June 3 in the Waitaha Conference Room at the Copthorne Hotel in Paihia. The Waitaha Room also hosts a large exhibition of works by Tai Tokerau artists, carvers, weavers, photographers, and glass artists all with a Matariki theme.

The Kauri Museum in Matakohe is holding a carving and kete making competition. Finished pieces will be on display in the exhibition hall at the museum from June 15-29. The carving competition has helped launched the careers of up and coming carvers. The kete making competition is a new addition and is bound to attract plenty of interest. The Kauri Museum itself is an exceptional tourist destination.

Whangarei Museum will be holding weaving and poi-making workshops on July 2.

All the passion and commitment of kapa haka will be on display on Matariki itself, June 16, when the annual kapa haka competition for the Tai Tokerau region is held at Kensington Stadium, Whangarei.Community celebrations are also happening around the region proving that Matariki is a great time for coming together in a positive spirit.

The Otangarei Community Festival is happening at Otangarei School on June 9th. It will be a chance to celebrate whanaungatanga (uniting families), Matariki and unity in the community, say the events organisers. The day will feature fun, games, food stalls, music, kapa haka (performance), hangi (food prepared by steaming in the ground), ta moko (tattooing), a health expo, whakairo (carving), and a youth forum.

Waipus annual community festival kicks off in June. The Waipu Hotel will be celebrating Matariki with a live band on Saturday, June 16th. Go along to a hangi and kapa haka performance at the hotel on Sunday, June 17 from 2pm. There is an $8 cover charge to raise money for Te Pounga Marae in Kaiwaka.

Kawakawa hosts an exciting community event on June 17 called Getting Up Steam to raise money for the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway. Bay of Islands school students will take part in a Trek The Track sponsored 2.5km walk from Moerewa to Kawakawa.

Students will also compete in the Puff and Pull race. Teams of students will pull one of the vintage railways diesel engines from a start point at the railway station to a finish point near the end of the street in the shortest possible time. Its bound to be a fun day out for the family.

The organisers hope that this will become an annual event. The new maintenance shed and workshop funded by the ASB Charitable Trust will also be officially opened during the day.

Get close to nature on a garden tour of the internationally renowned Taraire Gardens. The gardens took eight years to landscape and attract visitors from all over the world. Native birds, including kiwi, live in the gardens, which are open to the public from 10am-6pm.

Maori Challenge in the Bay
Maori Challenge in the Bay

Paihias restaurant and caf menus will feature indigenous ingredients for the month of June. Diners can enter the Taste Matariki competition by purchasing a wine and food match from the table card at a participating restaurant.

They can then go into the draw for one of the following prizes: A $100 lunch voucher at the renowned puretastes restaurant in Paihia and a bottle of Montana wine, or a luxury weekend for two at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort in the Bay of Islands (accommodation, breakfast, dinner, and a bottle of Montana wine).

Whangarei hosts the Best of Northland Matariki Festival Indigenous Dinner on Sunday, June 24. Five top Northland chefs will be cooking live on stage at Barge Park. Dishes will feature Northland ingredients and what Paul Jobin of puretastes describes as a sprinkling of indigenous culture in order to honour Matariki. Each course will be partnered with some of our finest New Zealand wines.

Four newly inaugurated regional hospitality industry awards will also be presented on the night. Tickets are available from or at puretastes, Paihia ph 09 4020003 or a deco in Whangarei ph 09 4594957.

The industrys up and coming talent will be pitting their skills against each other during the inaugural Northland Salon Culinaire at Northtec in Whangarei on June 24-25. The Salon is designed to create a friendly competition and will act as a stepping stone on the road to New Zealands national competition, says organiser Sam Timoko. The New Zealand Junior Hospitality Challenge is included in the Salon.

The competition is open to secondary students and juniors in the industry (with no more than two years experience). Application forms can be obtained from or ph 027 2102611.

For a full events listing and more information about the meaning of Matariki and how it can be celebrated go to Events will be updated regularly.

Editor's Note: Matariki, pictures courtesy Destination Northland include Russell Kites from the kite making workshops; pottery by local artist Colleen Urlich; and one of the special meals available as part of Taste Matariki menu.

Copthorne Taste Matariki Confit of Duck Leg with a Kawakawa Rub
Copthorne Taste Matariki Confit of Duck Leg with a Kawakawa Rub
Maori Cultural Performance, Waitangi Treaty Grounds courtesy Destination Northland
Maori Cultural Performance, Waitangi Treaty Grounds courtesy Destination Northland
Sunset at Cape Reinga courtesy Destination Northland
Sunset at Cape Reinga courtesy Destination Northland
Visitors to the meeting house courtesy Destination Northland
Visitors to the meeting house courtesy Destination Northland
Whale Bay, Tutukaka coast courtesy Destination Northland
Whale Bay, Tutukaka coast courtesy Destination Northland
Russell Kites kite making workshop courtesy Destination Northland
Russell Kites kite making workshop courtesy Destination Northland